Taxes could be going up on cigarettes in the City of Bristol, Virginia, and people could also see a tax on any event that requires admission.
Tuesday night the city council voted to approve the first reading of the changes. Bristol, Virginia Commissioner of Revenue Terry Frye says changes have been made after the first reading.
He says the changes are to address some concerns citizens brought up at the first hearing.
If you live or even shop in the City of Bristol, Virginia, it may cost you more to buy a pack a cigarettes. That idea is something Karen Self says could hurt her business. "We're going to lose business in Virginia. It's going to stay in Tennessee and that's the bottom line," she said.
Self is the co-owner of George and Sid's Convenience Store. She says a lot of Tennessee customers shop there because of the cheaper prices, and now she's worried that the city's proposed 16-cent-per-pack increase will hurt business. "It's not going to increase the taxes that they are pulling in for the city. They are going to see a decrease, that's what's going through my mind," she said.
Bristol, Virginia Commissioner of Revenue Terry Frye told us the proposed increase compares well with other cities. "Ours was the lowest in the state. Ours was 4 cents a pack. There are some locality where the city's cigarette tax is 50 cents a pack," he said.
The city council is also considering an admission tax, which would affect things like movie theater tickets, Rhythm & Roots, and Food City Race Night. "It's a way of raising money for the city without impacting the people who absolutely can't afford to pay the tax," adds Frye.
Frye says school events will be exempt from the tax, and for the most part so will non-profit organizations like churches, "Unless they earn more than $20,000 from fundraisers in one year, he said."
We checked and found out just increasing the cigarette tax based on current sales figures could bring the city around $50,000 per month, or an estimated $600,000 per year in new tax revenue.
Meanwhile Self hopes the city council will find another way to make more money. "I'm hoping they will reconsider, think it through. Think of what they're going to lose, because they're not going to gain anything by doing this to cigarettes," she said.
Frye tells us right now the city isn't sure how much the admission tax could bring in. He says that's because there may be events going on in Bristol they aren't aware of.
Frye also says the proposed tax increase will not impact e-cigarettes.
The city council still has two readings of the proposed changes before they go into effect.