Recent Blog Posts

  • The Airbnb Gold Rush: What’s a City to Do?

    Authored by: on Thursday, February 15th, 2018

    Most of us know that Airbnb is popular, but how big is it really? Well, the statistics are mind-boggling. Airbnb is currently valued at $31 billion. By mid-2017, it had 4 million listings in 191 countries worldwide, which surpassed the number of available rooms in the top five hotel brands combined, with a mere 3.3 million global listings. According to the News & Observer, Asheville residents earned nearly $20 million in 2017 by renting their homes to nearly 160,000 guests. Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham also profited—residents in these cities made 8.7 million, 3.8 million and 3.1 million respectively. And approximately 25% of leisure travelers are expected to book a stay on Airbnb at least once. The answer: it’s HUGE.

    It is not just Airbnb that is exploding. As the sharing economy continues to grow, web-based booking sites like VRBO, Homeaway and FlipKey are also gaining momentum. These booking platforms are here to stay. Local governments have begun to ask what, if any, steps they should take to regulate the short term rental market? To be clear, a short term rental (“STR” for short) is usually for a term of 30 days or less. Both nationwide and locally, the regulation of these properties has become a hot topic as some cities have opted to ban these rentals while others have chosen to let sleeping dogs (or houses) lie.

    This is my first of two blogs on STR regulation. It discusses the key issues surrounding regulation and highlights how a few North Carolina municipalities are responding to this changing market. The second blog goes into more detail on how to regulate STRs and discusses the tax implications. You can find it here.

    Read more »

  • Beyond the Property Tax

    Authored by: on Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

    Local government tax offices do a lot more these days than collect property taxes.  Many local tax officials are charged with collecting a variety of other taxes (occupancy, beer and wine, or animal taxes, perhaps) and fees (EMS, nuisance abatement, and storm water, to name a few).  Enforcement remedies, interest,and penalties can vary widely from tax to tax and fee to fee.

    My new bulletin (Property Tax Bulletin #174) summarizes the collection details for a number of these other taxes and fees (14 of them, in fact.)  Much has changed since I last wrote a bulletin on this topic in 2011, most significantly the adoption of the “Tag & Tax Together” system for motor vehicle taxes in 2013 and the elimination of local privilege license taxes in 2015. Read more »

  • Let it Snow!?!? Interest and Inclement Weather

    Authored by: on Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

    [UPDATE: The 2018 budget bill included a provision that applies the “weekend & holiday” rule to extend payment deadlines when a county is the subject of a state disaster declaration by the governor and the county tax offices are closed. See Section 38.9(a) of this session law.]

    Facebook postings of icebergs floating off the coast of Nags Head are fake news, but snow and ice is in fact predicted for eastern North Carolina over the next few days.  This storm is poorly timed for last-minute taxpayers because the delinquency date for 2017 property taxes is this Saturday, January 6.  If taxpayers don’t pay their 2017 taxes by Friday, they will accrue 2% interest for the month of January.

    The possible collision of ice and interest has caused many county officials to contact me with this question:

    If the county tax office is closed on Friday due to inclement weather, may the county move the delinquency date to next week and allow taxpayers to pay their 2017 property taxes without interest on Monday, January 8?

    The legal, technical answer is “no.” But the practical answer is “it’s probably okay if your commissioners and attorney sign off on that decision.”

    Read more »

  • Waiting to Be Engaged or Engaged to Wait? When is On-Call Time Compensable under the FLSA?

    Authored by: on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

    Most local governments require at least some employees to be on-call to return to work in the event of an emergency. Departments with on-call requirements may include water, sewer and other utilities, public works, law enforcement, fire, EMS, emergency management, social services and information technology. Whether such employees must be paid for the time they are on-call time can be a vexing question. This blog post sets out the Fair Labor Standards Act rules governing compensation of on-call time. Read more »

  • 2018 Property Tax Prepayments

    Authored by: on Thursday, December 28th, 2017

    The recent federal tax bill signed by the president last week caps the deductions for state and local taxes at $10,000 beginning with the 2018 tax year. This major change is prompting many North Carolina taxpayers to prepay their 2018 local property taxes in 2017 so that they may (hopefully) deduct those payments on their 2017 federal income tax returns.  Guilford County, for example, has already received $1.2 million in 2018 prepayments, double what they received in prepayments for 2017 all last year.

    While this early influx of cash is a nice holiday present for local governments, new guidance issued by the IRS yesterday suggests that the 2018 prepayments may not produce the federal income tax deductions taxpayers expect.  Here’s a quick Q&A on the issue for local tax offices: Read more »

  • Mediation of Public Records Disputes is Jurisdictional

    Authored by: on Friday, December 22nd, 2017

    You’ve requested copies of city documents that you believe to be public records. The city has refused to provide them, saying that they are confidential. You file a lawsuit under G.S. 132-9 to obtain access to the records. You are not aware that state law (G.S. 7A-38.3E) requires mediation of public records disputes. The litigation proceeds and the court orders the city to produce the records. The city appeals. What happens? According to a recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case, the court order will be vacated. The statutory public records mediation requirement must be met in order for a court to have subject matter jurisdiction over any case regarding access to public records. Read more »

  • Extra, Special, Veto, and Reconvened Legislative Sessions: What’s the Difference?

    Authored by: on Friday, December 22nd, 2017

    [The primary author of this post is Christine Wunsche, the Director of the School of Government’s Legislative Reporting Service.]

    When teaching or writing about the schedule of the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA), we used to explain that a typical biennium session included “long” and “short” sessions, with a few extra or special sessions sprinkled in on occasion. Over the last several years, the legislature has changed things up a bit. As a result, it is much more difficult to predict how the biennium will unfold.  Christine Wunsche, the director of the School of Government’s Legislative Reporting Service, explored this topic a bit and we put together this overview. In this post, we describe the different types of legislative sessions: what are the sessions called, who can call legislators into session, and what topics can be considered during those sessions? We also provide a brief review of the actions taken during the reconvened sessions in 2017 and offer a short preview of the upcoming session in January. Read more »