North Carolina House Bill 998 (HB 998) and the NC Homeowner

It’s about to get real… Real heavy for North Carolina’ low- and middle-income taxpayers, and real light for its wealthiest, thanks to a bill that was passed, tentatively, on June 7, 2013.

Here are the highlights, as reported by the Budget & Tax Center Fact Sheet on June 10, 2013:

Updated analysis shows that HB 998 would shift the tax load to 95 percent of taxpayers, on average, while the top 5 percent of taxpayers, on average, get a tax cut:

  • Those taxpayers with income less than $169,000 will, on average, see their taxes increase under HB 998. This is because the sales tax expansion will hit harder middle and low income taxpayers who spend more of their income on goods subject to the sales tax compared to the wealthiest taxpayers.
  • The personal income tax cut disproportionately benefits the wealthiest taxpayers. On average, more than a third of the total income tax cut goes to the top 1 percent of taxpayers who have average incomes of $940,000.

Supporters of this bill, such as Brent Lane, director of UNC Chapel Hill’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, state that it will be good for the NC economy, as it will make NC more attractive to businesses. “(Tax reform) is not a fuel that drives the state, like geography, workforce and market demand. It’s the lubricant that helps it run — government efficiency, regulatory reform, and tax policy … reduce the friction.”

However, tax cuts, historically, have not been good economic growth strategies in the past. According to the Budget & Tax Center Fact Sheet:

  • The Congressional Research Service examined 65 years of federal tax and economic data and found that the top income tax rates and the top capital gains tax rate have had no discernible impact on economic growth. CRS also found that the cut in the top tax rates in recent years has not resulted in more savings, investment or productivity.
  • Low-tax states are more likely to have lower per capita income and employment growth than states with higher taxes.
  • Five states that enacted the largest tax cuts in the 1990s had weak job growth and personal income growth, while non-oil producing states that made large personal income tax cuts in the 2000s grew more slowly than the national economy.
  • The eight major studies published in academic journals since 2000 that have examined the effect of state personal income tax levels on broad measures of state economic growth, six have found no significant effects and one of the others produced internally inconsistent results.
  • Other factors are much more important to a state’s economic growth. Trends in the national and international economy, a state’s natural resources, the education of its workforce, the proximity to major markets, and the mix of industries in a state these are among the major factors that determine the growth of state economies. North Carolina’s job creation challenges are driven primarily by the state’s concentration in manufacturing pre-Recession.

If you are a NC homeowner, what does this mean to you? “The North Carolina Association of Realtors says the cap on mortgage interest and property-tax deductions in the state’s compromise tax-reform plan “will hurt homeowners across the state and the entire real estate economy,’” Says Susan Stabley, Staff Writer for the Charlotte Business Journal. “Previously, the state had no cap on the deductions. But House Bill 998 creates a cap, setting the combined tax break for mortgage interest and property tax deductions at $20,000.”

“The state Realtors association argues that increasing the tax burden on housing and homeownership will hurt the overall goal of tax reform — to improve North Carolina’s economy — as it will negatively affect home values just as the real estate market has begun to recover. It’s a de facto tax increase that discourages home ownership. ‘Any time you take away a tax advantage for homeowners, it effectively reduces home values,’ he says.”

Another problem is that the legislative wording makes it appear that this is just the beginning of the cuts. Some lawmakers tried to cut the deductions all the way to $0, and it is possible that they are slowly working their way down there.

In attempts to help fix the NC Budget, this “reform” bill also raises standard deductions which will represent a very small break for lower- and middle-income individual taxpayers. It also cuts NC’s wildly popular sales-tax holiday for back-to-school shopping as well as rebates for purchasers who buy Energy Star appliances.

In related news, NC Governor Pat McCrory rejected federal unemployment benefits, which effects NC’s 200,000 unemployed by reducing the benefits to only 20 weeks and decreasing the maximum from $535/week to $350/week. He also but over 9,000 education position in NC schools, included over 5,000 teachers, and put a hold on raises for teacher for the next two year.

However, there is good news for those who serve in Gov. McCrory’s cabinet! He approved pay increases ranging between 5 and 11 percent, because, as McCrory states so logically, “I’m trying to make it at least where they can afford to live while running multibillion-dollar departments.”

I wonder if he is hiring?