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New law sets up an excise tax panel

July 01, 2007|By TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS-Among the new Maryland laws becoming effective today, the most significant local legislation sets up a task force to review the county's excise tax on new construction, and allows the Washington County Commissioners to temporarily lift the ceiling on the tax.

The excise tax already has had several incarnations since it first was instituted. The county currently charges flat residential fees of $13,000 for a single-family home in subdivisions of 25 homes or fewer, and $15,500 per unit for multifamily homes. The fees double for subdivisions of more than 25 units.

The new law calls for a task force to study the excise tax structure and make recommendations. County officials recently appointed 11 people to the 11-member board. The remaining two appointments are expected soon.

Two years ago, the fee was changed from a formula based on square footage of a new structure to a flat fee.

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"We're taking another look at it," said Washington County Delegation Chairman LeRoy Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, who will serve on the panel. He cited complaints that the total fee is unfair to people building smaller homes.

"It may come to the point where we do nothing at all," Myers said. "But I have seen from a contractor's point of view where it has stymied growth" by adding to the cost of building smaller homes. To date, he said, the tax structure has not taken "a real close look at young couples who grew up here and want to stay here."

Myers said those already appointed to the board constitute "a good blend" of those affected by the fees.

Even so, "there probably will be a lot of ideas about how we should change it," he said.

The excise tax is designed to pay for infrastructure needs brought on by growth, such as roads, water and sewage treatment, and school construction.

Another local bill taking effect today allows the county's liquor board to go after a licensee when an employee is charged with selling alcohol to a minor.

It adds Washington County to the list of Maryland jurisdictions that can take action even if an offender gets probation before judgment. Until today, the board could not find out about those cases.

The new law will allow the liquor board to pursue violation charges against the licensee despite the employee's probation before judgment disposition.

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