Recent Blog Posts

  • Subdivision and Property Tax Liens

    Authored by: on Monday, October 1st, 2018

    Subdivision can make for knotty property tax problems. Here’s some help to untie them.

    Assume Billy BlueDevil owns Parcel A in Carolina County.  In February of 2018, he subdivides Parcel A into four subparcels, A1, A2, A3 and A4. Billy also owns Parcel B and a boat, all of which are listed Carolina County.

    In March 2018, Billy sells subparcel A4 to Tommy Tarheel. Tommy also owns a small propeller plane he flies on weekends from Carolina County’s small airport.

    In December 2018 Tommy calls the county tax office and asks what he needs to pay to eliminate the lien on subparcel A4 because he wants to sell it to his brother.

    What’s the correct answer? Must Tommy pay all of the taxes on all four subparcels? What about the taxes on Parcel B? Or the taxes on Billy’s boat? On Tommy’s plane?  Read more »

  • Federal Opportunity Zones: What Local Governments Need to Know

    Authored by: on Friday, September 21st, 2018

    Opportunity Zones are the latest effort by the federal government to encourage investment in low-income census tracts. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted at the end of 2017, grants significant tax benefits to investors who reinvest their capital gains in designated “Opportunity Zones.” The market potential is enormous, with some analysts estimating that trillions of dollars could be available for investment in these zones. The U.S. Department of Treasury has certified more than 8,700 Opportunity Zones nationwide and 252 in North Carolina. Local governments are now asking what they can do in order to take full advantage of the investment potential. This post answers some common questions asked by local government officials about Opportunity Zones and offers advice for next steps. Read more »

  • Challenging Discovery Bills

    Authored by: on Thursday, September 6th, 2018

    Discoveries are confusing, thanks to lots of special rules that apply only to these types of tax bills.  I explain the basic process here.  It’s not just the calculation of discovery bills that can get complex; so too are the methods that taxpayers may use to seek relief from those bills.  In today’s post, I discuss the three (!) different ways a taxpayer may challenge a discovery bill.

    Read more »

  • Administering Development Regulations and Accounting for Permitting Fees

    Authored by: on Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

    A 2015 North Carolina law requires that fees collected by the local “inspections department” must stay with that department. A 2018 law requires local finance officers to report to the Local Government Commission the revenues and expenditures “from building inspections.” The basic statutory language of each rule is straightforward, but in practice the meaning and scope is less clear. The lack of clarity around permitting fees arises from the complicated authority for local governments to administer development regulations. This area of law has overlapping terminology, convoluted statutory structure, and varied local government organization and practices. This blog attempts to shed some light on the topic, but questions remain. Read more »

  • Answers to Questions About the Mayor Pro Tem.

    Authored by: on Monday, August 27th, 2018

    North Carolina law, GS 160A-70 requires city governing boards to elect from among its members a mayor pro tem.  What powers does the mayor pro tem have? Does the mayor pro tem vote on all matters even in cities where the mayor votes only to break a tie? Does the mayor pro tem automatically become mayor if the mayor resigns?  What does “pro tem” mean, anyway? Read on to learn the answers to these and other questions about mayors pro tem.  Read more »

  • Residential Zoning Ordinances and Short-Term Rentals: Square Peg, Round Hole?

    Authored by: on Friday, August 24th, 2018

    Attempting to ban short-term rentals (STRs) by shoehorning them into existing single-family residential zoning ordinances may cause significant roadblocks for jurisdictions looking for answers on how to regulate these properties.

    Relying on preexisting residential zoning ordinances to ban STRs

    The question of whether a single-family residential zoning ordinance necessarily excludes or bans STRs in residential neighborhoods is one that I’ve been asked with increased frequency. As in most legal questions related to AirBnB, the answer is not yet clear. It is my thinking, however, that if a local government wishes to exclude STRs from specific zoning districts, the best practice is to amend the local code of ordinances to accomplish this—instead of relying on a preexisting ordinance. A recent line of cases in Pennsylvania helps explain why a residential zoning ordinance, as written, may prove ineffective to ban STRs.

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  • New Ordinance Report Requirement – Advice on Complying

    Authored by: on Monday, August 20th, 2018

    In June the General Assembly enacted Session Law 2018-69, which directs municipalities, counties, and metropolitan sewerage districts to submit ordinance-related information to two legislative committees by December 1, 2018.  This blog post examines the law and considers how local government units may comply with its provisions. Read more »