Our View: Unpaid showroom taxes add up

Sep. 16, 2013 @ 05:05 PM

It’s almost fall, Pre-Market has concluded and for many, attention turns now to Oct. 19 when the 2013 fall edition of the High Point Market opens for a six-day run.
But market-related business has been on the minds of some folks at High Point City Hall for a while, specifically, those involved with collecting unpaid showroom taxes. And that’s a job worth tens of thousands of dollars to the High Point Market Authority, beneficiary of the 15-cent per-square-foot showroom tax.
On Sunday, the Enterprise reported on unpaid property taxes and fees, listing the city’s top 20 property owners who are delinquent. But the report also focused specifically on past due market showroom taxes and what the city is doing to collect from eight showroom owners who owe them for last year.
Showroom operators voluntarily imposed the tax a few years ago to help fund the Market Authority. The tax generates about $1.5 million of the Market Authority’s annual budget of about $4.5 million. So, funds the showroom tax produces are vital to operating the city’s biggest business. And that is why it’s important that city officials stay on those showroom property owners not paying taxes in a timely manner.
According to Sunday’s report, the city has attached liens to eight showroom properties with unpaid bills ranging from a low of $369 to a high of $14,356. The unpaid bills amount to about $42,000. That’s not a huge amount of money compared to the $1.5 million overall levy or the Market Authority’s approximately $4.5 million budget. But in a time when funding from state and local sources is becoming harder to gain, every dollar the showroom tax generates is important.
Officials of two showrooms explained why they had not yet fully paid their tax bills. Michael Rush of Rush Industries said he’d gladly pay his $6,816 tax bill if the market’s bus system ran in front of his N. Wrenn Street showroom. Coy Williard, co-owner of Wright Place LLC, indicated to the Enterprise that his showroom’s bill had gone unpaid because of an apparent disagreement with city officials over the bill. Wright Place paid $3,635 of its $4,005 bill last week after inquiries by the Enterprise.
Such situations and circumstances, however, do not justify a refusal to pay a tax bill. Certainly, any taxpayer might have a legitimate beef over a tax bill, but the proper procedure is to pay the bill and then make the grievance through the proper channels.
Fortunately, there are only eight of about 190 properties in the showroom tax district with delinquent tax bills. But those bills need to be paid, and the city must stay on those property owners. That money is important to market operations.