Debate Heats Up on Proposed 4 Percent Meal Tax in Fairfax County

Should Fairfax County add a 4 percent tax on restaurant meals? 

Residents will get the opportunity this week to weigh in. Discussions on the proposed tax will be held Wednesday in Alexandria and Thursday in Falls Church.

The meals tax referendum is up for a vote on Nov. 8. Voters will decide whether the county's board of supervisors should levy a meals tax of no more than 4 percent on prepared food at restaurants. The tax also would apply to drinks served with meals and ready-to-eat food at grocery stores, among other locations.

The tax would give the county a new source of revenue, which would decrease dependence on real estate taxes, the county says on its website. It would generate an estimated $99 million per year, the county says.

Seventy percent of the revenues would be dedicated to Fairfax County Public Schools. The remaining 30 percent would go toward county services, capital improvements and property tax relief.

Opponents of the plan say the tax will unfairly affect low-income and middle-income families, and harm tourism.

Jane Miscavage with said the tax is a small sacrifice for a big payoff to fund schools.

“For parents who really want solutions to the schools-funding challenges, this is the time to vote for the meals tax," she said.

Claude Andersen, a father who works for Clyde's Restaurant Group, said the tax would hurt the restaurant industry.

"People pay the bottom line and they’ll notice a difference," he said.

"I think it's just more money to be spent in a poorer way," he continued.

"We need to control spending and growth in government, says. "Giving government hundreds of millions of dollars more every year will only make the spending problem worse."

The tax would add an additional $0.40 to a $10 meal and an additional $2 tax to a $50 meal.

Multiple surrounding jurisdictions tax restaurant meals, including a 10 percent tax in D.C. and a 4 percent tax in Arlington County.

Fairfax residents rejected a meal tax in 1992. The measure was defeated 58 percent to 42 percent, with about 25 percent of registered voters participating, a county spokeswoman said.

The tax was proposed again, including in 2012, but that effort did not put the question on the ballot.

A discussion will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Franconia Governmental Center.

A panel will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church. The panel will take questions from the audience. Questions can be submitted in advance by writing to or taking an online survey.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that voters have rejected a proposed meal tax in Fairfax County once, in 1992.

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