Here’s the deal on the subject of expanding the sales tax base to include services as Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly have decided to do: It actually can be a good idea, but only if it’s paired with a plan to lower the overall sales tax rate and provide targeted tax cuts (like the Earned Income Tax Credit) to lower income people.

Unfortunately and remarkably, however, McCrory and state lawmakers are simply ignoring this simple truth and instead pairing the sales tax expansion with personal and corporate income tax cuts that overwhelmingly favor the wealthy. As Chris Fitzsimon pointed out this afternoon:

“Supporters of the new sales tax plan claim that it is not a tax increase, that it will be offset by a reduction in the personal income tax rate. But that’s not true for the folks at the bottom of the economic ladder who will receive very little, if anything, from the income tax cut.

Millionaires by the way will receive a $2,000 break and that’s on top of the windfall they received in the 2013 tax cut package.

Low income folks won’t be so lucky.

You might be wondering how this regressive tax scheme passed the General Assembly and what people said it about it as it made its way through the legislative process.

It never went through any committee. It appeared out of nowhere in the final budget agreement and questions about the formula and how to distribute the money in future years were not answered

Proposals to restore the state Earned Income Tax Credit to help low wage workers and their families that could offset a sales tax hike have also been repeatedly ignored.

There are plenty of reasons why the budget unveiled by House and Senate leaders this week takes North Carolina in the wrong direction.

One big one is that it raises taxes on people who can least afford to pay more.”

Meanwhile, that sound of crickets chirping? That’s the response to the new plan from the far right think tanks that have lectured us for years about the supposed evil of raising taxes in North Carolina. By all indications, they go along with the Governor’s bizarre take that raising taxes on people at the bottom is okay so long as the result is to reduce state revenue overall. Talk about your worst of all worlds outcomes.


foreclosed house-for Rob(1).jpgHere’s an issue from the current state policy debate that hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention in recent days: the General Assembly’s new plan to tax homeowners who manage to get some of their debt forgiven in order to avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. Under the new gas tax compromise brokered by the House and Senate and tentatively approved yesterday, the Senate’s original plan to tax these homeowners for the loan forgiveness — something the feds do not do — has been put back in the bill.

As the one state capital journalist who has been doing a consistently solid job of following this issue, Mark Binker of WRAL, reported last week:

“North Carolina has decided to charge taxes on some items that would have gone untaxed due to changes to federal laws. The most controversial change along these lines has to do with mortgage debt that is forgiven.

When someone who is in a financial pinch has the amount they owe on their home forgiven through a debt relief program, that can be counted as income. The federal government decided not to tax this amount, but the state will under the Senate Bill 20.

This change was controversial when the measure passed through the Senate because it levies a big tax bill on those trying to work their way out of debt. When House lawmakers first passed this bill, they excluded the mortgage forgiveness from taxes. The compromise measure takes the Senate position.”

You got that? even as people throughout the state gnash teeth and get hot under the collar about a few pennies on a gallon of gas, many North Carolinians will now quite possibly and unnecessarily lose their homes as the result of new taxes that directly defeat the purpose of public programs that were designed to save them. The move is, in short, a perfect symbol of the shortsighted and regressive approach to tax policy that is one of the signature features of the current state political leadership.


Alexandra Sirota, Director of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center and the state’s leading independent tax policy expert issued the following brief statement this morning after the House Finance Committee debated and approved legislation to overhaul North Carolina’s tax code:

“This tax plan will provide the wealthiest North Carolinians a tax cut while middle-class and low-income taxpayers pay more.

The only amendment accepted makes things worse — adding $525 million to the price tag and bringing the revenue loss each year to nearly a $1 billion.  Without this vital revenue, North Carolina can’t  make needed investments in our economy, our children’s education, the health of our seniors and the safety of our communities.”  

Click here for a fact sheet with more information on the legislation (HB 998).

NC Budget and Tax Center

Advocates of a state tax overhaul are doing their level best to distract attention from the central truth that the plan would raise taxes on North Carolinians earning less than $51,000 a year and hand a significant tax cut to the top 20 percent.

The authors of a Civitas Institute report—which advocates abolishing the state personal income tax and replacing most of the lost revenue with a higher sales tax on a wider variety of goods and services—acknowledge that low- and middle-income households would pay more since they spend more of their income on products subject to sales taxes than wealthier households do. But they claim that this concern is overblown. They use several arguments to justify the tax shift, none of which stand up to scrutiny.

One of their central assertions is that some low-income people get government benefits, which apparently means that people living in poverty can afford to pay for a tax cut for the rich. We doubt most people in North Carolina agree. The proponents of a higher sales tax greatly exaggerate the government benefits most poor people in North Carolina actually receive. To bolster their case, they cite services available to families in Pennsylvania and appear to assume that every household eligible gets all of the services. But this is simply not the case in North Carolina. The vast majority of poor people do not receive all the services they are eligible for, in part because there are not enough funds to allow that. Read More