Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Do you know where you live? Of course, you know your address, and how to get home, but some residents, as well as businesses, may be unaware of the specific legal jurisdiction in which they reside or have their business. Falls Church City is an independent city, not a part of Fairfax County. City residents are governed by the City Council, and pay city property taxes, not county. Addresses in the county with a Falls Church postal address and zip code are governed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and are subject to county property taxes. 2010 Census data indicate that Falls Church City has a population of 12,751; the mostly Mason District Falls Church ZIP codes of 22041, 22042, 22044 have a combined population of 68,911.

Neither jurisdiction imposes a local income tax, and that seems to be where some of the confusion lies. Some taxpayers have been sending their state income tax returns to the city of Falls Church, instead of Richmond, for processing. It’s an easy error: apparently some tax software does not clearly delineate a difference between Falls Church City and Falls Church addresses in Fairfax County. Folks living in Falls Church (and their tax preparers) may assume that they should send their return to Falls Church, but that office serves only city residents. Fairfax County regularly sends a courier to pick up erroneous mail at the Commissioner of Revenue office in Falls Church City. Fairfax County then sends the errant tax returns to Richmond. Since the original envelope postmark governs, taxpayers are not at a disadvantage, except for the extra time it may take to get a refund. The Virginia Tax Locality Code for Falls Church City is 610; the locality code for Fairfax County is 059. My thanks to Falls Church Commissioner of the Revenue Tom Clinton for providing much of the information included here.

Such errors are not confined to state income taxes. State sales taxes are collected at the point-of-sale, and remitted to Richmond for processing. More than once, Fairfax County has discovered that sales taxes collected in the county were erroneously credited to either Falls Church City or Alexandria City (county population for Alexandria ZIP Code addresses is 185,000; city population is just 140,000). Since the local portion of sales taxes supports provision of local services, getting the tax remitted properly is important, both to localities and the taxpayers. The process to correct a sales tax crediting error can be rather convoluted, so it benefits all not to make the mistake in the first place.

AARP Tax-Aide volunteers provide free assistance with tax preparation at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale, through April 15. Hours are Mondays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.; and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. All returns are filed electronically. Bring last year’s tax return, a photo ID, and all Social Security cards.