Warsaw officials are investigating town codes and ordinances after a citizen inquiry raised concerns that an elected county official may be evading local tax laws.
Last week, Town Manager John Slusser said that a formal inquiry had been initiated into the use of 54 Belle Ville Lane, a property that has long been claimed as storage by Dist. 3 Supervisor John Haynes and his wife Kippen.
The claim was recently challenged, and brought to Slusser’s attention, after a concerned citizen investigated the property’s history.
“I had been hearing about the matter for some time, but when I saw that the property was on the town agenda for rezoning I dug deeper,” said Charles Jones, adding that what he found alarmed him.
A quick Internet search on the State Corporation Commission website showed that both Belle Ville Appraisals and Belle Ville Properties, businesses owned by the Hayneses’, have the building listed as their primary office address.
“With both businesses located at the site, I wanted to know why they were not paying business taxes to the town,” Jones said.
And according to town documents, it is a question that has been raised for years.
In 2008, Jane Mahan, then treasurer and council clerk, questioned the Hayneses’ use of the site.
Referring them to the Business, Professional and Occupational License Tax Guidelines (BPOL) that the town uses to determine which businesses need licensing, Mahan asked that the Hayneses’ let her know if the building was involved in “any activities regarding gross receipts.”
The BPOL regulations specifically name that the income from the performance of service “shall be attributed to the definite place of business at which the services are performed, or, if not performed at any definite place of business, then the definite place of business from which the services are directed or controlled.”
In 2012 the town sent a business license application to the Hayneses’ regarding their Belle Ville property. It was returned with a note written on the top, signed by Kip Haynes, which said that the property was used solely for storage.
“I do not operate a business from there,” Kip wrote. “It is a mailing address only.”
Slusser said that although certain parts of the BOPL regulations could apply to the Haynes property, there are many businesses, such as warehouses, that are exempt from the BPOL tax, adding that his office was looking into the matter to see if the Hayneses property fit that description.
“You can have an office, but where the business is transacted is where the tax code comes into play,” Slusser said. “We have conflicting information and the town has sent the information to counsel to see if it should be pursued.”
With a tax rate of $0.15 per $100 of gross receipts per year, an average business making $50,000 would only be taxed approximately $75 annually.
While it might seem a small sum, Jones said that it came down to a matter of principal and sets a precedence for other businesses within the town of Warsaw.
In an email, Haynes declined to comment further, saying that Kip’s response to the town’s recent inquiry was sufficient.
On July 12, Kip changed her office address with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation to a different location on Big Bend Road.
Haynes added that the entire matter was the latest in a media smear campaign targeting him.
The town will be holding a public meeting regarding the rezoning request when council next meets on Dec. 13, 7 p.m. at town hall.