‘Repair’ tax takes effect

Published 10:20 am Tuesday, March 8, 2016

NC News Service

Next time a repair is needed – from furniture to cell phones, to shoes, to automotive – expect to pay a little more. A new state sales tax on services began March 1 in North Carolina.

The tax, passed last year, is around seven percent, depending on the county. It means a $500 car repair would cost an additional $37.

State lawmakers intended the new tax revenue to replace some of the money lost from income and corporate tax cuts from 2013 and last year.

Without those tax cuts, the state would have generated an additional $2.3 billion annually by 2019.

The state estimates the new services tax will raise just $159 million in its first full year.

The latest state income-tax cuts save about $500 for households making $95,000 a year, but only about $50 for someone making $30,000.

Cedric Johnson, public policy analyst with the NC Budget and Tax Center, calls it unfair that the new tax on repairs and services weighs more heavily on lower-income families.

“It disproportionately hits low and moderate-income North Carolina taxpayers in general the hardest,” he explains, “simply because they spend a much greater share of their income on things subject to the sales and excise tax.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with incomes of around $35,000 spend $630 a year on repairs and maintenance.

Johnson says the tax-code changes are bound to put a greater burden on the same households that also are more keenly affected by cuts to social safety-net programs with decreased state revenue.

“The tax shift is happening, and at the same time, with the massive revenue loss from the tax changes since 2013, we simply don’t have adequate revenues at the state level to invest in the things in local communities that drive local economies,” he says.

Effective March 1, retail sales and use tax is imposed on the following:

Repair, maintenance, and installation services provided for an item for which a service contract on the item is exempt from tax under G.S. 105-164.41.

Repair, maintenance, and installation services purchased for resale.

An item or repair, maintenance, and installation services used to maintain or repair tangible personal property or a motor vehicle pursuant to a service contract taxable under this Article if the purchaser of the contract is not charged for the item.

Repair, maintenance, and installation services are defined in the new budget as follows:

“To keep or attempt to keep tangible personal property or a motor vehicle in working order to avoid breakdown and prevent repairs.

To calibrate, restore, or attempt to calibrate or restore tangible personal property or a motor vehicle to proper working order or good condition. This activity may include replacing or putting together what is torn or broken.

To troubleshoot, identify, or attempt to identify the source of a problem for the purpose of determining what is needed to restore tangible personal property or a motor vehicle to property working order or good condition.

To install or apply tangible personal property except tangible personal property installed or applied by a real property contractor pursuant to a real property contract.”