Court rules Charlottesville’s tax on freelance authors is unconstitutional

Updated: Jan. 15, 2021 at 10:45 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A judge in Virginia’s 16th Judicial Circuit declared that it is unconstitutional for Charlottesville’s business license tax to be applied to freelance authors, a victory for an area novelist and the litigators that represented him.

Author Corban Addison brought the case to courts with legal assistance from the Institute for Justice.

“The tax is large enough to be significant,” Addison said. “I’m grateful, especially in these times, not to have an additional bill to pay.”

Attorneys Renée Flaherty and Keith Neely argued that the tax was unfair because nowhere in the city’s code did it say freelance authors were subject to the tax.

The city argued that freelance authors like Addison should be allowed to be taxed because it provides “any other repair personal, or business service not specifically included in other sections of the Code.” Judge Claude V. Worrell, II disagreed in the ruling.

“I sit in an office and type on my computer,” Addison said. “It just never struck me that I would be subject to a licensed tax. So I’m grateful for the clarity.”

Neely said the ruling was about fairness.

“We’re happy to send a message on behalf of [freelance authors] that they’re not ATMs for the city to use and abuse,” he said. “A large part of the implementation and enforcement of this tax was selective and involved the city going after folks that they thought would turn over and pay that money.”

A similar case brought against Albemarle County by the Institute for Justice, which is representing author John Hart. They say “it is only a matter of time before the county’s tax is declared unconstitutional as well.”

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