County fairs may slip through new tax loophole

Posted June 5, 2014

For more than half a century, Macon County has hosted a fair that is all about agriculture. No rides, no games, no midway. It's the last fair of its kind in North Carolina.

— The state House gave preliminary approval Thursday to bill that would exempt county agricultural fairs from collecting sales tax on tickets for entertainment events, and some lawmakers said they expect other exemptions to follow.

The move comes one week after Gov. Pat McCrory signed a package of adjustments lawmakers made to the sweeping tax reform legislation they passed last summer.

"This is the beginning of the unraveling of all the hard work you did last year," said Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie.

Howard, the chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, and other top Republicans spoke out against House Bill 1201, which was backed by Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, saying they tried to eliminate loopholes last year and don't want to start bringing them back.

"This is the first step toward treating the same things differently," said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett. "We did make a commitment that we were going to treat the same things the same way. This bill goes in the opposite direction."

Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, said she was in a subcommittee last year that decided against exempting county fairs, state attractions such as the North Carolina Zoo and most nonprofit events from collecting sales tax. She said that, if fairs were granted a loophole, she planned to seek similar exemptions for nonprofits.

Rep. Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe, said he feared for-profit groups running a fair would get a tax break under the bill.

The debate got to the point that House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes tried to kick Holloway's bill back to the Finance Committee for more debate.

"It's beginning to tilt it to who has the clout to get an exemption for his special interest," said Starnes, R-Caldwell.

Starnes withdrew his motion after several Republican lawmakers said the measure should be voted up or down and not just buried in committee.

"These fairs need to stick around," Holloway said. "They're big, big things for our small communities."

The House voted 64-50 for the exemption. A final vote, along with a vote on the amendment Carney vowed to bring forward for nonprofits, is expected next Tuesday.


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  • katzpauz Jun 9, 2014

    These are agricultural fairs and should be exempt. Look. I'm tired of paying taxes and watching it be p ssed away. STOP wasting our money. Do away with 3/4 of government. We don't need it. Stop ALL government charity and "grants". If the government has money to give away, then it collected (stole) too much from the tax payers.

  • Tim Pearce Jun 9, 2014
    user avatar

    I got a novel Idea.... Let's see to it that whoever we put in office has an OCD thing about wasteful spending and they make sure they don't keep the monies that they are already getting in a bucket full of holes.

  • NC observer 07 Jun 6, 2014

    View quoted thread

    If this is truth, I guess I'm grateful it's an election year so I can throw my senator and representative out.

  • Michael Hart Jun 6, 2014
    user avatar

    they are not benefiting but a small part of North Carolinians, as most Fairs comprise of "Out-of-towners" or Out-of-Staters.

  • Jack Jones Jun 6, 2014
    user avatar

    This is an obvious attempt to buy the "rural vote". Very sad. Republicans know that nobody likes them ramming fracking down our throats and polluting the land.

  • Anita Woody Jun 5, 2014

    While I think it is fair to exempt the tickets to agricultural fairs - they shouldn't have been taxed in the first place, but this legislature decided to raise taxes of most North Carolinians significantly. Now the State has a 500 million shortfall this year and already a projected 191 million next year.

  • miseem Jun 5, 2014

    Does the word two faced come to mind?