Posted on February 9, 2024

Virginia Lawmakers Seek to End Tax Break for Confederate Heritage Group

Gregory S. Schneider, Washington Post, February 7, 2024

The Virginia Senate voted Tuesday to tear down another Confederate memorial — but instead of a bronze figure on a pedestal, this one consists of words tucked into state law.

With two Republicans joining all 21 Democrats, senators agreed to dismantle a pair of obscure tax breaks for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the organization that sponsored most of the Confederate statues that dotted Virginia’s landscape until localities began removing them over the past several years.

Few in Richmond knew about the special dispensation for the Confederate heritage group until it was highlighted by a Virginia Beach high school student who called lawmakers and pushed them to act.

“I understood who the United Daughters of the Confederacy were and what they did and how they spread the myth of the Lost Cause, and I thought that we should get rid of [the tax break],” Simone Nied, 17, a junior at Kempsville High School, said in an interview. She took up the issue two years ago after her father, a lawyer, mentioned it in passing during a family dinner.

A measure to end the UDC’s exemptions passed the House of Delegates last week, but the Senate version was broadened to strike two other Confederate-related organizations from the list of Virginia groups exempted from real estate and property taxes. The two bills will have to be reconciled — and then go to Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), where they face uncertain prospects of being signed into law.


Youngkin has said before that he favors preserving Confederate statues in museums instead of removing them entirely. His office said he opposed the removal of the Confederate memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, and he directed that the Virginia Military Institute place it at a battlefield owned by the school. Youngkin also appointed a Confederate monument defender to the state Board of Historic Resources, though she later resigned.

The UDC tax measures picked up some Republican support in the legislature — three GOP lawmakers joined all 51 Democrats in voting for the House version, along with the two Republicans who joined Democrats in the Senate. But that’s not enough to provide the two-thirds majority required to overcome a veto.

The bills involve sections of state code that deal with taxes related to real estate. In the law, the UDC is the only specific special-interest group exempted from deed recordation taxes, along with the broader categories of churches; federal, state and local governments; nonprofit hospitals; and corporations making internal property transfers. The UDC also is exempted from real estate and property taxes, part of a long list of carveouts that also includes local historic preservation groups, the Future Farmers of America, the American Legion, several local fine arts groups and more.

Both House and Senate bills would strip the UDC from those lists. The Senate bill also would remove the property tax exemption for the Stonewall Jackson Memorial and the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, which owned Richmond’s White House of the Confederacy before it merged with the American Civil War Museum.

The loss of a real estate tax exemption could expose the UDC to a hefty local tax bill in Richmond, where its marble-clad national headquarters on Arthur Ashe Boulevard has an assessed value of more than $4.4 million. {snip}