Sales Tax: Where Does It Go?


The AC-T ran an article today explaining how our sales tax dollars are divvied. This is helpful reporting as Asheville debates the role of various taxes in funding various priorities.

What makes the situation more perplexing is that about $135 million of Buncombe County’s $180 million in annual sales tax comes from Asheville businesses. But because of complex state laws only about $14 million finds its way back to the city.
“What we were seeing was that about 75 percent of all retail sales that occur in Buncombe County happened in the city of Asheville,”
Of the $180 million generated by the county’s 7-cent tax, most goes to state coffers with a small portion going to Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

Less than 2 cents, or $64 million, comes back to Buncombe’s local governments. That money is distributed according to one of two methods chosen by county officials: by population or by the amount of property taxes each entity collects.

In recent history, the county has used the property tax method. That means the county got $46 million of the $180 million in 2011, according the N.C. Department of Revenue’s most recent records. Asheville, meanwhile got $14 million. Payout to other municipalities ranged from $277,000 to nearly $1 million.

It’s wonderful that Asheville is an economic engine that helps lift the whole region. We all love living here, and working together is what makes it all work. Providing a jobs center as well as a vibrant culture, Asheville’s successes ripple out across Buncombe and WNC. Worldwide popularity and the 2.9 million overnight travelers who come here each year mean that we have some distinct challenges in maintaining our infrastructure and responding to emergency needs (Occupancy tax revenues do not go directly to county governments. That 4% tax is distributed only for tourism related activities by the Tourism Development Authority, one example being their big investment in improving the Civic Center.).

Thanks to our partners in the County and at other levels of government who are willing to craft solutions, so Asheville can continue to be the beating heart of western North Carolina.

Categories : Buncombe County, Local


  1. Ascend of Asheville says:

    I’ll bet I’m not the first person to see those numbers and have the initial reaction that the TDA is over-funded.

    Did the TDA have a part in the negotiations with US Sellular? How about the signage variance? And speaking of signage…but whatever.

    It seems like Asheville gets screwed six ways from Saturday on every front. Perhaps if our local businesses and property owners felt that more of their hard-earned money stayed in the area and made things happen, they would not be so keen to set up their own sub-governmental arrangements.

    If we were a hockey team I’d be sending in the big mean guys about now.

  2. Gordon Smith says:


    The naming rights deal was led by the city in our efforts to put together the money necessary to elevate the venue and continue securing national acts.

  3. Was that the one that was also whipped out on people about 30 days before it was a done deal and the response to complaints was, “well, if you can raise more money, go for it?”

    Plans. Cellar. File cabinet. Flashlight.

    Anyway, it is pretty shocking how little Asheville gets back from the state in sales tax revenue. Maybe the lobbyist the city is currently paying to do the job of the area’s state legislators (who are apparently doing something else terribly important) could get cracking on sending a few more points back to you all.

  4. Davyne Dial says:

    Oh God, Asheville is the equivalent of that bright, talented hardworking girl we all know and love, that always has a bad, abusive relationship we are all too familiar with. And it keeps repeating.

  5. Ascend of Asheville says:

    Davyne, That’s perfect! Asheville is co-dependent! We don’t need more proactive representation, we need a therapist. A city therapist. Yet another candidate for the salary dollars now being used on entrenched city management.

  6. Davyne Dial says:

    “we need a therapist. “

    Or somebody to smack us up side the head and remind us to learn to take better care of ourselves.

  7. Gordon Smith says:

    Ascend – I think you’re right about BID proponents just wanting to put more service into downtown, service that current levels of funding don’t allow for without cuts to other important priorities.

    Also, what’s the distinction, for you, between experienced and entrenched? Is experienced bad? Because entrenched sounds terrible.

  8. Gordon Smith says:


    The decision about how much to allocate back to counties is decided in Raleigh, and whether to use per capita or ad valorem is decided at the County level. I hope you’ll use your voice, too. Our liaison is hard at work building relationships and laying a foundation, but he’s going to have a much easier time of it if legislators are hearing from the people.

  9. Michael Muller says:

    Depends on the trench.

  10. Ascend of Asheville says:

    For me entrenched implies a wealth of experience that has gone down the path of staking out territory, then staying within one’s comfort zone, while using the experience to both ward off new ideas or upstart youngsters and the position gained to enrich one’s self.

    In business that is perfectly acceptable. In service to the city or state that is entrenched. In both cases the person(s) involved eventually become barriers to rather than forces for positive growth and change.

    That being said, I would not go so far as accuse anyone of being a blockage to the health of Asheville, but there is something wrong that a great many people feel but can’t put a finger on. That to me is one place to look.

  11. TJ says:

    “we need a therapist. “

    Well, there IS the one on City Council…but, I suppose that would be a conflict of interest…even if it would be in the cty’s interest.

    Anyway, isn’t that what a therapist does, Davyne. 😉

  12. Dixiegirlz says:

    It does not take a rocket scientist to come to understand that a deeply entrenched good ole boy and gal system is an issue for us. Just saying.

    If someone is a yaller dog Democrat, they might not see this tho….they might even hope to join in.

  13. Michael Muller says:

    Ascend of Asheville said:

    For me entrenched implies a wealth of experience that has gone down the path of staking out territory, then staying within one’s comfort zone, while using the experience to both ward off new ideas or upstart youngsters and the position gained to enrich one’s self.

    Who would you say the entrenched interests are in our state and county, Ascend?

  14. Ascend of Asheville says:

    You know, that is a very thoughtful question, and although I could go off half-cocked and get myself even more alienated in this here tiny little town, the truth is that the responsibility for making sure that the city’s money is going to people who wake up every morning energized, focused and excited about Asheville rather than how sweet it is to be a somebody lies not with me but with those charged with protecting the city’s welfare on my (our) behalf. I get to vote. That’s not an abdication of opinion, but an improvement in perspective.

    As someone recently pointed out to me, I should be on those committees and commissions and at those meetings, and talking directly to the people involved if I really and truly want to learn what’s going on and who is behind the curtain.

    I had to remind myself that I got involved to help, not just to bitch about it.

    The more I learn about this great town, the more I realize that a little bit of wastage on petrified staff is the least of our problems.

    As an example, the recently illustrated tax inequities between Asheville, the surrounding communities and the County make the question of staffing seem quaint and parochial by comparison. There are bigger problems to be addressed.

    My apologies if that seems dodgy. I’m processing.

  15. I’ll see you shortly — and we shall Drink. Like Men!