Buncombe may forgive over $105K in hotel tax penalties

Buncombe County seal

Pay income taxes late? You’re in for a nasty letter from the IRS.

Pay occupancy taxes late as a hotel or short-term rental in Buncombe County? No problem.

Per request of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, the county Board of Commissioners will consider waiving at least $105,000 in late penalties for lodging operators at its meeting of Thursday, Nov. 5. (Because board meetings normally occur on Tuesdays, the date was moved to avoid a conflict with Election Day.)

The waiver would apply to all occupancy tax payments that came due from March through September. According to a presentation available before the meeting, 67 lodging businesses have been delinquent in reporting or remitting occupancy taxes during that period, with an additional 29 establishments yet to report at least one month of taxes. All properties, including those with a prior history of delinquency, would be covered by the waiver if approved.

The BCTDA board recommended forgiving the penalties in a 5-0 vote at its Sept. 30 meeting; members Brenda Durden, Himanshu Karvir, John Luckett and James Poole, whose businesses stand to benefit from the waiver, were recused. Chris Cavanaugh, Explore Asheville’s interim CEO, said the move was warranted due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, lodging sales have shown signs of recovery in recent months. During the month of April, hotel sales were 91.9% lower compared with the same month in 2019, but in July (the latest month for which data is available), year-over-year sales were down only 43.7%. Vacation rental sales were nearly a third higher in July compared with the same month in 2019.

In other news

Over $16.3 million in new capital projects for area schools could get the green light at Thursday’s meeting. The projects would be funded through new county debt and repaid using sales tax proceeds.

More than half of the funding — $8.5 million — is slated for renovations at Haw Creek Elementary in East Asheville. Other allocations include nearly $3.9 million for work at Vance Elementary, almost $2 million for classroom additions at Estes Elementary and over $1.5 million for utility improvements at Valley Springs Middle.

The board will also vote on accepting a nearly $440,000 grant from the nonprofit Dogwood Health Trust to support medical and substance use care for people leaving the county jail and area prisons. As explained during a presentation at the board’s Oct. 6 briefing, the work would be contracted out to RHA Health Services and the Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness.

Consent agenda and public comment

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains seven items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:

  • Adoption of a new policy for accepting and managing donations to Buncombe County. The rules would require commissioners to approve all property donations and gifts of over $500,000; smaller donations, including gift cards, could be accepted by the county manager or “an elected official who manages the operation of a county office.”
  • Approving $120,000 to cover transaction costs for three conservation easements on farmland in Barnardsville, Sandy Mush and Weaverville. Funding had already been allocated for potential easements in the county’s 2021 budget.
  • Accepting over $20,000 from an N.C. Department of Environmental Quality grant and more than $7,000 from the town of Weaverville to fund a stream restoration project in the Ivy River watershed. The county has previously allocated $99,000 toward the effort.

The commission will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m. to discuss the county’s COVID-19 response and other matters. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.

Public comment will only be permitted through live telephone calls at the start of the meeting; no in-person comments, emails or voicemails will be accepted. Those planning to comment must sign up online or call 828-250-4001 by Monday, Nov. 2, at 3 p.m. All commenters will receive three minutes to address the board.

Both the briefing and regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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2 thoughts on “Buncombe may forgive over $105K in hotel tax penalties

  1. Harold

    Because, of course.

    Businesses, who occasionally allow some drips from the urinal of capitalism, to trickle-down to the poors, MUST be forgiven these taxes.

    Because, you know, they might threaten to go somewhere else.

    Those businesses who don’t pay their taxes must be expropriated. Just like the tax-man does when you don’t pay your taxes.

    But hey, it’s all about the community, right?

    Yes, the wealthy community.

  2. luther blissett

    “The BCTDA board recommended forgiving the penalties”

    Turkeys vote to recommend pardoning turkeys. But sure, the hoteliers recused themselves.

    That “presentation” doesn’t really tell us anything about the amount of occupancy tax revenue that generated those penalties, or the identities of the late payers. In the past, when BCTDA has denied waiver requests, or BCTDA and the county have granted them, we’ve known who was getting the waiver. A blanket amnesty hides this. There’s no indication in the BCTDA board minutes of who paid late or is delinquent right now. Though Mr Karvir recused himself from presiding over the discussion because his properties would be affected by this, we don’t know whether they are specifically subject to the late penalties.

    If we’re talking about B&Bs or small motels, I’m more sympathetic to the idea of a waiver, given that they run at tight margins with not many staff. You could even make the case for a blanket amnesty. But the county board should at least provide some transparency on who will benefit from this before it concurs with BCTDA’s recommendation. The county already knows who the late-payers are.

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