Commissioners to consider tax refund request from General Electric

General Electric is seeking a refund on its property taxes after finding some equipment was listed twice on its filings to the Buncombe County tax assessor’s office in 2019 and 2020. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will decide whether or not to approve GE’s request at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 15.

Tax Assessor Keith Miller and County Attorney Curt Euler are recommending commissioners deny the request for an almost $280,000 refund on the grounds that GE did not appeal its apparent listing errors after they were made and the county had legal authority to levy the tax based on the information provided, according to a staff presentation. GE has also requested a refund of about $227,000 from the city of Asheville.

During a 2022 audit, GE found that two of its entities had listed the same equipment multiple times on filings, and claims that it had therefore been double taxed. According to staff, double taxation, while illegal, has never been applied by state courts when the taxpayer made a listing error on real or personal property, as is the case here.

If commissioners deny the request, GE will have three years to bring civil action against the county.

In other news

Commissioners will hear an update from the Strategic Partnership Grants Committee, which makes grant funding recommendations to the board. Local nonprofits requested about $3.3 million in county support for this fiscal year, with $900,000 in funding awarded.

Of the 23 projects awarded, 10 were related to resident well-being, and eight fit under the education umbrella. Staff will discuss the possibilities of increasing funding to the program and implementing a $80,000 cap on specific request amounts, according to a staff presentation.

The board will also get an update on the downtown affordable parking program, which launched in December 2022. Of the 167 eligible applications received for a Coxe Avenue garage space, 75 applicants are enrolled. Staff plans to move the program to a first-come, first-served basis to increase program participation. There are 150 reduced rate parking spots available for $40 a month, which saved participants $74 a month in July, according to a staff presentation.

There are also two public hearings on zoning changes in the Long Shoals Business Center on Long Shoals Road and at Warren Wilson College at the regular meeting.

Consent agenda

The consent agenda for the meeting contains 11 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:

  • A service contract with the Tourism Development Authority permitting the county to process Explore Asheville’s employee payroll and oversee accounts payable in exchange for 5% of gross occupancy taxes, which otherwise funds TDA functions.
  • A resolution approving the acquisition and use of new DS950 high speed ballot scanners and a software upgrade for Buncombe County Election Services.
  • A budget amendment accepting about $18,000 of state money to deliver a digital media campaign encouraging lesbian and bisexual women who use tobacco to quit. Buncombe County is one of four counties in North Carolina participating in the program along with Mecklenburg, New Hanover and Wake counties.

The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link. Prior to that meeting, the commissioners will hold a 3 p.m. briefing.

In-person public comment will be taken at the start of the regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in room 326 at 200 College St., Asheville; no voicemail or email comments will be permitted. Both the briefing and the regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.


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4 thoughts on “Commissioners to consider tax refund request from General Electric

  1. Mike Rains

    UNISON ENGINE COMPONENTS INC, which is some legal affiliate of GE, paid less than $50,000 in taxes total to Buncombe County and Asheville (combined) last year.

    Someone with a $500K house in Asheville pays around $5K in taxes. So, people who own a house are paying the same rate of taxes that these folks are paying for a multi-million dollar operation.

    And now, GE wants to claw back some $400K because they messed up their tax filing. Thank you Tax Assessor Keith Miller for flipping the correct finger to these folks.

    Does anyone besides me have any concerns with this? Look at the roads around Asheville. Check out our famous water system. No wonder we don’t have the money to do anything. Corporate taxes are a give-away.

  2. dyfed

    The punitive nature of our tax system is, of course, absurd. “Guess how much you owe: if you go under you will pay penalties or go to jail, if you go over, we will keep it and you have no recourse.”

    Morally the path is clear: if somebody drops cash by mistake on the street, you hand it back. Imagine even having this conversation about a poor family that overpaid their taxes. If the only reason we want to treat GE differently is how much money is at stake, that certainly shows our venality and greed.

    “Mike Rains” above makes an incoherent argument. He claims the same “rate” without showing the value of the property and referencing apparent revenues of the firm—a red flag for his understanding of property tax. He then implies that we should keep the payments because of our needs irrespective of what is just: the same arguments that looters and thieves make, “I get your stuff because I think I need it and I think you don’t.”

    Come now. If you think that tax rates should be higher, raise them. But don’t confiscate money that should not have been paid under the law. That is wrong and any child could tell you so, regardless of adult rationalizations that inevitably claim the rules should not apply if it benefits them.

    • Mike Rains

      Regarding the GE requested claw-back, you need to understand just how sweet a deal they received around the state and here in Buncombe County for the first plant. Buncombe County built the facility and leases it to GE. I’ll be researching to see how fair that has ended up for taxpayers.

      This Unison plant is next doo to the GE plant and the bilding/land is owned by the GE affiliate; it is not a leased building.. Unison does somewhere around $500M in annual revenue according several internet sites; however, you’d be hard pressed to find any actual financials on this unit of GE, or any unit of GE for that matter. In fact, GE is comprised of dozens upon dozens of affiliate LLC’s etc. which makes fiancial transparency pretty much impossible down at the affiliate level. Something that isn’t lost on these big conglomerates.

      Suffice to say that Unison does pretty well and while I do not begrudge solid corporate earnings, the overriding trend over the past decades is for corporations to get out of paying as much tax as possible (income and property); of which lower property taxes are often to the detriment to the community they exist in.

      My reference to revenue only meant to infer that I doubt the building is full of cheap equpment; equipment which would be included in the property tax assessment. Of course, laws have been passed where if the equipment is “affixed to the building in certain ways, the equipment is not separated out but included as part of the building. This has significant depreciation benefits when allowed.

      Furthermore, if you look at nearby buildings in this industrial park, you will only find one “qualified” sale that to me anyway, imputes this building is probably undervalued. And that is a whole ‘nother” problem with all real estate sales these days as many sellers and buyers are transacting directly (not openly listed) and at least currently, Buncombe County will not recognize those sales (unqualified). This directly impacts the ability of the Tax Assessor to broaden sales data.

      Asheville is in a unique position across the state as a mecium/major city that has a grossly inadequate tax base. While I not at all a big tax and spend person, it is clear to me that as a fairly new resident that unless something changes, this City will not thrive or move forward. You only have to look to the water department and underfunded Police as disturbing examples.

      Finally, how about using your real name when you comment? Very few do these days. I wonder why?

      • dyfed

        I see a lot of words here but no argument that we didn’t already cover: if you think they ought to be taxed more, raise the tax rate. It does not justify keeping what you do not deserve.

        The reason I post under a pseudonym is that county GIS is public. I don’t want any maniac on the internet looking up where my kids sleep, thanks. You do you, though.

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