Arlington County is withdrawing from a Virginia regional agency that distributes cigarette tax revenues to local governments following charges by a top elected official that the agency is inefficient and incompetent.

The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the pullout from the Northern Virginia Cigarette Tax Board Saturday night, despite assurances from the agency that it is taking steps to reduce administrative costs and improve its auditing procedures. The withdrawal goes into effect March 1.

Geraldine M. Whiting, Arlington's commissioner of revenue, had lobbied the County Board to approve the withdrawal, arguing that her staff could handle the administration of the tax more efficiently and save the county more than $45,000 annually.

"Continuing membership insults the intelligence of the Arlington County Board in particular and the citizens of this county in general," Whiting wrote the board in an October memo that criticized the tax agency's request for an increase in its operating revenue.

She contended that approving such an increase would be an "absurd" move that would "reward inefficiency and incompetence."

The tax agency, composed of representatives of eight Northern Virginia localities, has a five-member staff to collect and distribute what has been nearly $5.5 million annually in local cigarette taxes. Arlington gets about $900,000 a year from the tax.

The responsibility for collecting the taxes will be shifted to Whiting's office.

County Manager Larry J. Brown had argued against the withdrawal, saying that there "is value in regional participation" and that the county's financial staff had been unable to verify Whiting's estimates of the costs of local versus regional administration of the taxes.