Bill that would exempt small vendors from Virginia meals tax passes

STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (Feb. 21):

A bill that would exempt small vendors at farmers' markets and roadside stands from Virginia's meals tax has now passed both the House of Delegates and the Senate.

House Bill 342 passed the Senate on a 38-2 vote on Thursday, with Senators Amanda Chase and David Suetterlein, both Republicans, casting the only opposing votes.

The House of Delegates passed the measure unanimously earlier this month.

The bill next heads to Governor Ralph Northam's desk for a signature to become law.

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A bill that would exempt small vendors at farmers' markets and roadside stands from Virginia's meals tax has been unanimously endorsed by a Senate committee.

Amanda Rhodes, owner of Country Rhodes Produce and Bakery, has been setting up at the Staunton Farmer's Market for about 10 years.

She said she can see how this bill could affect some of her fellow vendors.

"Especially the small start-up businesses, it might be a little more beneficial for them just to eliminate some paperwork and headache," Rhodes said.

House Bill 342 proposes to exempt vendors who set up at farmers' markets and roadside stands from paying a meals tax, as long as their sales from those areas do not exceed $2,500 annually.

But for Rhodes, she said Staunton does not require farmers' market vendors to pay a meals tax already, and she makes more than $2,500 a year.

"Most vendors that are doing the farmers' market are doing it as a way to make an income, not just for fun or not just for a side gig. It's a large portion of my income," Rhodes said,

Other local small businesses said they think the exemption could help everyone in the long run.

"Benefit the average farmer, as well as the homegrown farmers. We buy a lot of our produce from the farmers' market," Kevin Losh, owner of the Chubbee Monkee and Let's Get Cheesy food trucks, said.

He said something that helps local farmers, will ultimately help other small local businesses because those businesses tend to buy from the farmers, rather than chains.

The bill is now headed to the full Virginia Senate.