Sales tax will apply to meal plans

Any New Year’s resolutions about keeping a careful budget will meet fresh obstacles in January, when students will begin to pay a 7.5 percent tax on meal plans and tickets to events across campus.

Meal plans and event tickets sold on North Carolina university campuses were formerly exempt from the state’s 6.75 percent sales tax, but the N.C. General Assembly repealed that exemption over the summer. The change takes effect Jan. 1.

Each county may set its own rate in addition to the statewide 6.75 percent. In Orange County, the tax will be 7.5 percent. The increase in UNC’s meal plan costs will directly reflect this change.

“To give you an example with real numbers, (consider) the Value 14 — currently that plan is $1,725, so it’s going to go up to $1,854. It’s about a $129 increase,” said Mike Freeman, director of auxiliary services. “But it’s not money we get. It’s going straight to the Department of Revenue.”

The revenue from the increase amounts to $625,000 a semester from meal plans alone.

Freeman said the increase is a subject for concern, but Carolina Dining Services did not have room in its budget to absorb the increase.

“Whenever we buy something local like grass-fed beef, it costs a lot more than regular beef,” Freeman said. “So we could do no more sustainable, no more local, but I don’t believe in that and I don’t think students believe in that.”

The UNC Association of Student Governments has already passed a resolution calling for the reinstatement of meal plans’ tax-exempt status.

“I think students may be unaware because there hasn’t been much publicity, so I think there’s going to be a bit of sticker shock heading into next semester,” said ASG Spokesman Vincent Cahill.

Tickets for performances sold through the Carolina Union Activities Board will also be affected by the increase, but student ticket-buyers might not immediately notice the change.

“The plan right now is that the Union and the Box Office are going to take care of paying the tax for all student organizations that go through them,” said CUAB President Carly Mathews.

Mathews explained that CUAB will avoid charging students the extra fee, but student organizations may have to absorb the cost.

A $10 ticket would continue to cost ten dollars. However, because of the tax, the Union and the student organization selling the ticket would only receive $9.25 from the sale of that ticket.

“Administrators are working pretty quickly to figure out the best way to deal with this, because not only do they have to spread the word, but they’re trying to figure out ways to work with student groups,” Mathews said.

CUAB is working with its Board of Directors, which includes representatives from several of the largest student organizations on campus, to communicate information about the tax to affected groups.

Mathews said she doesn’t think the tax will affect students’ access to performances.

“It depends on how the student groups respond,” she said. “We are anticipating more groups requesting more money to offset the tax, because their $10 ticket doesn’t count for $10 anymore.”

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