Property Tax Laws
NORTH CAROLINA PROPERTY TAX LAWS
The period of time for which taxes are levied, or the period taxes for a particular year are said to “cover” is a matter that has occasionally caused confusion. Units of local government operate on a fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30; property is listed for taxation each year in January. This is done at the beginning of the calendar year so that the property can be taxed by Robeson County to support its operations in the fiscal year opening next after July 1; and for enforcement purposes, the lien of taxes levied for the fiscal year attaches to real property on January 1 of that calendar year.
The North Carolina Supreme Court has defined a lien as “the right to have a demand satisfied out of the property of another.” This right runs against the property rather than against the owner. As used in the property tax laws of this state, the lien for taxes is in favor of the local governmental unit and may be enforced against the property of the taxpayer.
Each year, the taxing unit acquires a lien against all real property that each taxpayer owns within the unit on January 1; this lien attaches automatically, by operation of law, without an effort on the Collector’s part. Because the lien attaches to real property as of January 1, obviously it does so not only before the tax becomes due but also before the exact amount of the tax can be known.
Regardless of the time at which liability for tax for a given fiscal year may arise or the exact amount thereof be determined, the lien for taxes levied on a parcel of real property shall attach to the parcel taxed on the date as of which property is to be listed.
The lien of the property tax against real property is superior to all other liens and rights (except certain liens for other taxes) regardless of the claimant and regardless of whether acquired before or after the lien for taxes. Furthermore, once the lien has attached to real property, its priority is not affected by transfer of title, by death, by receivership, or by bankruptcy of the property owner.
Robeson County annually attaches a lien on over 78,000 real properties valued at more than 6 billion dollars.
With such a tremendous amount of property, it can easily be understood that clearing this lien against every property in Robeson County is a major undertaking. The tax statutes, however, supply the Collector with specific means for enforcing collection against the citizen’s property when all other means of satisfying the lien against the property have been exhausted.
The lien against the real estate for unpaid taxes may be enforced by several procedures; one such procedure is foreclosure. This is a rather drastic means of collecting taxes; it is generally viewed as the remedy of last resort.
On the first Monday in February of each year, the Collector is required to report to the Board of County Commissioners “the total amount of unpaid taxes for the current fiscal year that are liens on real property.” When this report is received, the Board must order and set a date on which the liens are to be advertised, setting the stage for the initial step in foreclosure as outlined below:
The In Rem Foreclosure process includes the following actions:
The advertisement of liens and past due taxes occur in April of each year and is published in a local newspaper.
A notice is mailed stating that a judgment against the owner of record will be filed with the Clerk of Superior Court. (A judgment will normally affect credit ratings.)
The judgment is filed in Superior Court. Additional costs must be added to the tax notice.
After the judgment is filed, a notice is mailed stating the execution or sale will occur.
Execution is issued to the Sheriff ordering the sale of the property. The Sheriff will set the date of sale and sell the property.
NOTE: At this point, all payments must be made to the Sheriff. The Collector’s Department is no longer involved.
The property is sold at the Robeson County Courthouse by the Sheriff, and a deed will be issued to the buyer by the Sheriff.
NOTE: Each step in the process of foreclosure will add costs to the total tax notice. “authorized” empowered, and commanded” by the County Commissioners to collect the taxes set forth in the tax records.
INDIVIDUAL PERSONAL PROPERTY
Individual Personal Property includes boats, boat motors, jet skis, mobile homes, aircraft (including hot air balloons and gliders), and unlicensed vehicles (including automobiles, trucks, trailers, campers, and motorcycles). Listing must be returned annually and must be submitted by January 31 to avoid the 10% late listing penalty.
Extensions until April 15 may be granted upon written request, if the request is postmarked by January 31. All those who own individual personal property on January 1 are required to list. If you listed with this office last year, a listing form will be mailed to you at your address of record. If you do not receive a listing form for property, which you are required to list, it is your responsibility to obtain the proper form from the Individual Personal Property Section call 910 671-3060.
All Individual Personal Property subject to taxation must be listed within the time period of January 1 through January 31. View/print complete listing instructions.
LICENSED MOTOR VEHICLE LISTINGS AND TAXATION
How is my vehicle Registered?
The date of registration is the listing date for each vehicle and begins a twelve (12) month “tax year” for the vehicle. Because registered vehicle billing is based on the date of the registration, you may not receive a bill on every registered vehicle you own at the same time. The owner of a classified motor vehicle must file an appeal with the Assessor within thirty (30) days after the date of the tax notice. Filing an appeal does not extend to the time period for payment of the notice. An owner who appeals the listing, valuation, or assessment of a classified motor vehicle shall pay the tax on the vehicle when due, subject to a full or partial refund if the appeal is decided in the owner’s favor.
How and When Will I Receive Notification of Motor Vehicle Tax Due?
All registered motor vehicles are listed by the Assessor from information provided by the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles including name and address after the renewal of a registration or purchase of a new registration. The county tax office is not notified of name or address changes after a renewal is made. Approximately three (3) months after a registration takes place, an individual bill will be issued by the Tax Assessor’s Office for each vehicle registered. The owner of a classified motor vehicle who does not renew their registration or if the vehicle does not have a plate, must list the vehicle for taxes with the assessor of the county in which the vehicle is located on or before January 31 st.
What Happens If I Do Not Pay On Time?
Statements issued for each registered motor vehicle’s property tax are separate and apart from any other property tax bill including real estate and become due the first day of the fourth month after registration. Taxes are past due on the first day of the fifth month after registration. Accounts that are past due are assessed an interest charge per month of 5% for the first month and 3/4% for each month thereafter of the tax due. Taxes that are delinquent are subject to enforcement measures such as levy, wage garnishment, bank attachment, debt set off.
What Is Considered A Registered Motor Vehicle?
A registered motor vehicle is every vehicle that is self-propelled (such as cars, trucks, motorcycles and motor homes) and every vehicle designed to run upon the highway that is pulled by a self-propelled vehicle (such as trailers). This does not include mopeds.
Questions concerning Registered Motor Vehicle can be answered by
Betsy Cummings at (910) 671-3060 7303.
Business Personal Property
Who must file a listing, and what do I list?
Any individual(s) or business(es) owning or possessing personal property used or connected with a business or other income-producing purpose on January 1. Temporary absence of personal property from the place at which it is normally taxable shall not affect this rule. For example, a lawn tractor used for personal use, to mow the lawn at your home is not listed. However, a lawn tractor used as part of a landscaping business in this county must be listed if the lawn tractor is normally in this county, even if it happens to be in another state or county on January 1.
NCGS 105-308 reads… “any person whose duty it is to list any property who willfully fails or refuses to list the same within the time prescribed by law shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. The failure to list shall be prima facie evidence that the failure was willful”.
When and where to list?
Listings are due on or before January 31.
They must be filed with Robeson County Tax Department at:
Robeson County Tax Dept, 550 North Chestnut Street., Lumberton, NC 28358
As required by state law, late listings will receive a penalty. An extension of time to list may be obtained by sending a written request showing “good cause” to the County Assessor by January 31.
How do I list? Two important rules:
1) Read the INSTRUCTIONS for each schedule or group.
2) If a Schedule or Group does not apply to you, indicate so on the listing form. DO NOT LEAVE A SECTION BLANK, DO NOT WRITE “SAME AS LAST YEAR”. A listing form may be rejected for these reasons and could result; late listing penalties.
Complete all sections at the top of the form, whether or not they are specifically addressed in these INSTRUCTIONS. Attach additional sheets if necessary.
Physical address: note here the location of the property. The actual physical location may be different from the mailing address. Post Office Boxes are not acceptable. Please correct all Rural Routes to 911 address updates.
Principal Business in this County: What does the listed business do? For example: Tobacco Farmer, Manufacture electrical appliances, Laundromat, Restaurant.
Other N.C. Counties where personal property is located: If your business has property normally located in other counties, list those counties here.
Contact person for audit: In case the county tax office needs additional information, or to verify the information listed, list the person to be contacted here.
If out of business: If the business we have sent this form to has closed, please complete this section and attach any additional information regarding the sale of the property.
Make any necessary address changes.
Social Security Number. The disclosure of this number is voluntary. This number is needed to establish the identification of individuals. The authority to require this number for the administration of a tax is given by United States Code Title 42, Section 405(c)(2)(c)(i) and N.C.G.S. 105-309
The year acquired column: The rows which begin “2004” are the rows in which you report property acquired during the calendar year 2004. Other years follow the same format.
Schedule A is divided into eight (8) groups. Each is addressed below. Some records may have the column “Prior Years Cost” pre-printed. This column should contain the cost information from last year’s listing. If it does not, please complete this column, referring back to your last year’s listing. List under “Current Year’s Cost” the 100% cost of all depreciable personal property in your possession on January 1. Include all fully depreciated assets as well. Round amounts to the nearest dollar.
Use the “Additions” and “Deletions” column to explain changes from “Prior Year Cost” to “Current Year Cost”. The “Prior Year’s Cost” plus “Additions” minus “Deletions” should equal “Current Year Cost”. If there are any additions and/or deletions, please attach a separate sheet, which describes and gives the cost of each of those additions and/or deletions. If the deletion is a transferred or paid out lease, please note this, and to whom the property was transferred.
Note that the cost information you provide must include all costs associated with the acquisition as well as the costs associated with bringing that property into operation. These costs may include, but are not limited to invoice cost, trade-in allowances, freight, installation costs, sales tax, and construction period interest.
The cost figures reported should be historical cost, that is the original cost of an item when first purchased, even if it was first purchased by someone other than the current owner. For example, you, the current owner, may have purchased the equipment in 2004 for $100, but the individual you purchased the equipment from acquired the equipment in 1998 for $1000. You, the current owner, should report the property as acquired in 1998 for $1000.
Property should be reported at it’s market cost at the retail level of trade. For example, manufacturer of computers can make a certain model for $1000 total cost. It is typically available to any retail customer for $2000. If the manufacturer uses the model for business purposes, he should report the computer at it’s market cost at the retail level of trade, which is $2000, not the $1000 it actually cost the manufacturer. Manufacturer/lessor businesses that lease the equipment that they manufacture must list their equipment at the retail level of trade rather than their manufacturing cost.
Group (1) Machinery & Equipment
This is the group used for reporting the cost of all machinery, equipment and signs used in the operation of your business. Includes all warehouse and packaging equipment, as well as manufacturing equipment, production lines, hi-tech or low-tech. List the total cost by year of acquisition, including fully depreciated assets that are still connected with the business.
For example, a manufacturer of textiles purchased a knitting machine in October 2004 for $10,000. The sales tax was $200, shipping charges were $200, and installation costs were $200. The total cost that the manufacturer should report is $10,600, if there were no other costs incurred. The $10,600 should be added in group (1) to the 2004 additions and the 2004 current year’s cost column.
Group (2) Office Furniture & Fixtures
This group is for reporting the costs of all furniture & fixtures and small office machines used in the business operation. This includes, but is not limited to, file cabinets, desks, chairs, adding machines, curtains, blinds, ceiling fans, window air conditioners, telephones, intercom systems, and burglar alarm systems.
Group (3) Computer Equipment
This group is for reporting the costs of non-production computers & peripherals. This includes, but is not limited to, personal computers, midrange, or mainframes, as well as the monitors, printers, scanners, magnetic storage devices, cables, & other peripherals associated with those computers. This category also includes software that is capitalized and purchased from an unrelated business entity. This does not include high tech equipment such as computerized point of sale equipment or high-tech medical equipment, or computer controlled equipment, or the high-tech computer components that control the equipment. This type of equipment would be included in Group (1). Point Of Sale Equipment (POS) Is Not Considered as Computer Equipment.
Group (4) Leasehold Improvements
This group includes real estate improvements to leased property contracted for, installed and paid by the lessee which may remain with the real estate, thereby becoming an integral part of the leased fee real estate upon expiration or termination of the current lease, but which are the property of the current lessee who installed it. (Examples are lavatories installed by lessee in a barbershop, special lighting, or dropped ceiling.) If you have no leasehold improvements write “none”. Please provide our office with a detail list of leasehold improvements.
Group (5) Copiers
This group is used for reporting copiers for your business.
Group (6) Expensed Items
This group is for reporting any assets that would typically be capitalized, but due to the business’ capitalization threshold, they have been expensed. Section 179 expensed items should be included in the appropriate group (1) through (5). Fill in the blank that asks for your business’ “Capitalization Threshold.” If you have no expensed items write “none”.
Group (7) Construction in Progress (CIP)
CIP is business personal property which is under construction on January 1. The accountant will typically not capitalize the assets under construction until all of the costs associated with the asset are known. In the interim period, the accountant will typically maintain the costs of the asset in a CIP account. The total of this account represents investment in tangible personal property, and is to be listed with the other capital assets of the business during the listing period. List in detail. If you have no CIP, write “none”
Group (8) Supplies
Almost all businesses have supplies. These include normal business operating supplies. The “TYPE” column is for, but is not limited to the following “types” of supplies: OFFICE SUPPLIES, MAINTENANCE & JANITORIAL SUPPLIES, MEDICAL, DENTAL OR OTHER PROFESSIONAL SUPPLIES, BEAUTY & BARBER SHOP SUPPLIES, FUELS OF ALL KINDS, EQUIPMENT, SPARE PARTS, HOTEL & MOTEL SUPPLIES. The type and cost on hand as of January 1. Remember, the temporary absence of property on January 1 does not mean it should not be listed if that property is normally present. Supplies that are immediately consumed in the manufacturing process or that become a part of the property being sold, such as packaging materials, or raw materials, for a manufacturer, do not have to be listed. Even though inventory is exempt, supplies are not. Even if a business carries supplies in an inventory account, they remain taxable.
Vehicular Equipment, Aircraft, Manufactured Homes & Office Space
Unregistered Motor Vehicles, vehicles located here but registered in another state, and trailers with a multi-year registration. This category is for these types of equipment only. DO NOT list motor vehicles with a current North Carolina Registration. If the vehicle is located in North Carolina, but has another state’s tag, list them here. Also, list any motor vehicles that are not registered at all or semi-trailers or trailers registered on multi year basis. Short term rental or leased vehicles with (UDR) U-DRIVE tags are exempted from property tax. Session Law 2000-2 Gross Receipts Tax replaces the ad-valorem tax previously levied on these vehicles
If on January 1, you have in your possession any business machines, machinery, furniture, vending equipment, game machines, postage meters, or any other equipment which is loaned, leased, or otherwise held and not owned by you, a complete description and ownership of the property should be reported in this section. This information is for office use only. Assessments will be made to the owner/lessor. If you have already filed the January 15th report required by N.C.G.S. 105-315, so indicate. If you have none, write “none” in this section. If property is held by a lessee under a “capital lease” where there is a conditional sales contract, or if title to the property will transfer at the end of the lease due to a nominal “purchase upon termination” fee, then the lessee is responsible for listing under the appropriate group. Equipment purchased under a capital lease should be listed in schedule A. Operating leases should be listed in schedule C.
If an authorized person does not sign the form, it will be rejected and could be subject to penalties. Please read the information on this section of the form regarding who may sign the listing form.
Schedule A – Depreciable Personal Property
Schedule B – Vehicular Equipment
Schedule B – Aircraft, Boats, Motors, and Manufactured Homes
Schedule C – Supplies
Business personal property must be listed for tax purposes on an annual basis. Business personal property includes, but is not limited to, supplies, machinery, equipment, computers, furniture, fixtures, leasehold improvements, airplanes and farm machinery. Any income producing property is considered by North Carolina General Statutes as business personal property.
All business personal property that is subject to taxation must be listed within the time period of January 1 through January 31. View/print complete listing instructions. View/print BBP listing form. The Board of County Commissioners has the authority to extend the listing period. Listing extensions for business personal property may be requested in writing prior to the close of the regular listing period. Obtain an extension request form. This request must be for a good cause and cannot be extended beyond April 15. Failure to list within the required period will result in a penalty of 10% of the total tax levied.
Listings are due on or before January 31.
They must be filed with Robeson County Tax Department at:
Robeson County Tax Dept
550 North Chestnut Street.
Lumberton, NC 28358
As required by state law, late listings will receive a penalty. An extension of time to list may be obtained by sending a written request showing “good cause” to the County Tax Administrator by January 31.
Listings submitted by mail shall be deemed filed as of the date shown on the postmark affixed by the U.S. Postal Service. Any other indication of the date mailed (such as your own postage meter) is not considered and the listing shall be deemed filed when received in the office of the tax assessor.
Any person who willfully attempts, or who willfully aids or abets any person to attempt in any manner to evade or defeat the taxes imposed under this Subchapter (of the Revenue Laws), whether by removal or concealment of property or otherwise, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.