Sounds good, doesn’t it? It’s a suggestion from Steve Black, a longtime island resident and thoughtful member of the island community. For example, Steve’s been deeply involved in the effort to get a new school built on St. John.
Black suggests that homes rented to vacationers should be taxed as commercial properties. A few years ago, I heard the Territory’s Tax Assessor tell the St. John Rotary Club he liked that idea, too.
The result: even higher property taxes and, equally likely, higher rental rates.
He also thinks the territory’s Economic Development Commission regulations, which extend huge income tax benefits to business owners, should "be designed better to provide a ‘leg up,’ not a lifelong ‘handout.’
In his Guest Opinion for the Virgin Islands Daily News, Black didn’t suggest that home renters are doing anything wrong. What concerns him is that as real estate values have risen, primarily driven by villa buyers. That means longtime residents’ homes and assessments are also being pulled higher.
It is wrong, Black said, "that our homes are burdened by the popularity of tourism and commercial profits instead of being partners in success."
Taxing villas as businesses could happen. The Territory is in the midst of restructuring its real estate tax system. The Governor has proposed there be four categories of properties, with different tax rates. John deJongh’s idea lumps all homes, rental or not, into the residential category.
Anything can happen when legislators are in session. One of them might even have read the Daily News.