Valley Pays Highest Taxes On Meals In The U.S.?

By: Melanie Lofton Email
By: Melanie Lofton Email

The Shenandoah Valley, is home of beautiful mountains, rich civil war history, and some the highest tax rates in the country when it comes to eating out.

"Oh my gosh," said one woman when we showed her this the Tax Foundation rankings of the 50 biggest cities, and the taxes you pay when you go out to eat. It combines state sales tax, plus the cities meals tax. Minneapolis tops the list at 10.775 percent.

Anytime you go out to eat in Harrisonburg, you may have a bit of sticker shock when you see your bill, because in Harrisonburg you'll be paying a combined 11.5% percent in taxes. That not only makes it the highest in the state, but possibly the highest in the country.

Restaurant owner Aaron Ludwig says he has to explain it to visitors all the time. He said people are "used to 4 or 5% where they live so when they see it here, there's a lot of people who just lose their minds that it's that high."

Staunton and Waynesboro aren't far behind. In those cities, you'll be paying a combined 11% in taxes on meals. That's more than what you'll pay in Chicago, Washington D.C., even Los Angeles and New York.

Even though it sounds bad, Staunton Mayor Lacy King says there are reasons this is better than alternatives. He says "it is reasonable and one reason is because it is a user tax. The 6% meals tax is a user tax and people who don't eat out don't pay it."

King says another benefit is that it's a tax shared with visitors. Someone visiting the Frontier Culture Museum for example, won't use the schools, and usually don't need police protection. They help pay for it though, when they pay the meals tax.

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