The Ashe County Commissioners have moved in lockstep, uniting across party lines, to endorse and promote the Land Transfer Tax, which is on the ballot May 6. They have launched a coordinated letter-writing campaign to convince voters that this tax is vitally necessary. They have even produced, at taxpayer expense, a slick propaganda brochure “explaining” all about the tax and its alleged benefits, and have distributed it at the courthouse. This brochure appears to cross the line from voter education to issue advocacy. The first is legal, while the second is not.
Let’s put the Land Transfer Tax in terms that most people can understand. Has anyone realized that this tax actually TRIPLES the Excise Tax? That’s right. If you sell your house or land for $100,000 today, you have to pay $200 in Deed Stamps. If this new tax passes, that same $100,000 sale will require the SELLER to pay the same $200 in Deed Stamps, PLUS another $400 in additional taxes.
The pro-tax commissioners have tried to promote this as a “Tax on Growth,” which will be paid mostly by outsiders. But that’s simply not true. The SELLER pays this tax, so clearly it is taxing the ones who own the land being sold.
But wait, say our crusading commissioners n by building it into the sale price, the Sellers can just pass that tax along to the Buyers, and they are all coming from Florida. So we’re really letting the “outsiders” pay to keep our local property tax rates low.
The truth is, according to official public records, in 49.4 percent of real estate sales in Ashe County in the month of March, the Buyers were from somewhere in the High Country -- i.e. Ashe, Avery or Watauga Counties. And in 34.8 percent of those sales, they came from somewhere else in North Carolina. That means that North Carolinians bought 85 percent of the Ashe County real estate sold in March. Only 6.7 percent of the Buyers were in fact from Florida.
So who is really paying the tax? The Seller pays it, but passes it on to the Buyer, and at least half the time that Buyer is a local resident. So clearly this tax is driving up the price of land for locals. That is the truth of the matter. And that is a very BAD idea.
The real estate market in Ashe County is depressed. Maybe not like the rest of the nation, but it’s down n down by almost 40 percent across the board, when you compare sales in January, February and March of 2008 with the same period in 2007.
Factories are closing and people are losing jobs. Some of those folks may have to sell their homes and move away. With demand low and prices high, it’s already going to be hard enough for them to get a decent price for their property. The last thing we need in this depressed market environment is another tax on real estate sales.
The Land Transfer Tax is a BAD idea. Vote NO on May 6.
John Wheeler Jr.