Relief from personal property and tools and machinery taxes are granted first through the approval of the General Assembly and then by the governor signing a bill into law. The process requires a lot of help from people and associations.
Once approved into law counties then have the option to exempt these taxes. As of July 1, 2020, an amendment to the law now allows counties to exempt these taxes on forest harvesting and silvicultural equipment.
Virginia Loggers Association led the way but was fortunate to have the full support of Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia Forestry Association, Virginia Forest Products Association, Virginia Agribusiness Council and Virginia Association of Counties.
Delegate Leslie Adams representing House of Delegates District 16 wrote a great bill and championed it through the General Assembly 2020 session.
The Alleghany County Board of Supervisors were early leaders to approve the exemption which provides much needed relief to our Virginia loggers.
On behalf of the logging industry and the Virginia Loggers Association Board of Directors, we thank the leaders for their decision.
Loggers are the key to harvesting and hauling unrefined/raw forest materials from forests to mills who make paper and wood products used in our homes and businesses. Loggers are your neighbors and friends. They harvest and haul forest products from the predominately privately-owned forests of Virginia. It is estimated that less than 1,000 logging companies operate in Virginia.
Once markets decline, loggers are often left with little or no options for these trees. Their investments in equipment is significant and those payments continue even when revenue from sales have stopped. Loggers generally take the brunt of poor economies as they lose the markets which they depended upon for their sustainability.
COVID-19 virus only added more misery to the recent market decline which especially hurt the logging sector of the industry.
Loggers do one of the most dangerous jobs in America. They are made up of family owned businesses which means smaller companies on the front end of the industry.
Equipment used in the harvesting of trees is single-use type solely used in logging. They cannot be used for other commercial purposes such as heavy construction. The equipment approved from personal property taxes are only the machines used to cut, drag, chip and load trees from forests.
All the equipment is non-titled.
The new law places forest harvesting equipment in the tax category with farm machinery. The tax category is the one used by localities to fully exempt personal property and machinery and tools taxes.
The main crop are the trees grown for wood and fiber products. Commercial forest harvesting usually involve larger parcels of land where all mature trees are removed and those which remove some of the trees (thinning and timber stand improvements).
Operations not in the new law include those engaged in the removal of individual trees around residences. The new law also does not apply to commercial land clearing company equipment. Sometimes logging is an operation necessary before land is converted to non-forest uses like housing, commercial development, solar farms and agriculture.
Virginia forests are mostly owned by private citizens who wisely manage their forests with the assistance of loggers, forestry consultants, and industry, and the Virginia Department of Forestry. Following most harvests, these landowners reforest their land and prepare for the next crop of trees (usually 25 to 50-plus years).
By making this exemption possible for loggers, county leaders are also helping forest landowners to retain their forests in forests for future generations and insuring a strong future forest community.
Virginia’s forest products industry is the third largest industry in the commonwealth adding $21 billion to the economy and over 100,000 jobs.
Businesses engaged in our fiber and wood products are subject to the normal business challenges plus the unpredictable nature of weather, insects, diseases, optional land uses and more. Investing in our forest community is our best bet to insure we have the essential products provided by our forests.
Virginia will receive a strong forest products industry as leaders make wise choices today about our forests. We are grateful to counties who realize that their loss in annual revenue from personal property and machinery and tools taxes on forest harvesting equipment is very small compared to the investment they are making in our future.
The logging community of family-owned businesses are grateful to Alleghany, Pittsylvania, Goochland, Highland and Rockbridge counties for their understanding and their commitment to these business owners.
We hope that all Virginia counties will follow these leaders and commit to exempt personal property and tools and machinery taxes on forest harvesting and silvicultural equipment.
Local leaders, loggers, citizens, forest products companies and the commonwealth of Virginia will continue to receive the benefits of well-managed forests.
Children who eventually take over the future leadership roles in their communities, state government, federal government and citizen associations will be the beneficiaries of these wise decisions today. Healthy forests are dependent upon good markets and sustainable businesses which together sustain a great forest community.
We are also grateful to so many understanding citizens who see these steps as wise investments in our future.
Executive Director Virginia Loggers Association Goochland
The Virginian Review has been serving Covington, Clifton Forge, Alleghany County and Bath County since 1914.