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New North Carolina laws for 2015: Lower taxes, but fewer breaks for movie-makers and others

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RALEIGH, North Carolina — Taxes are dropping for corporations and people, though taxi drivers and movie-makers are losing preferential breaks. Hunting and fishing licenses are locked into a future of low rate increases. Military veterans and their spouses may find it easier to put previous skills to work.

Those are some of the changes in North Carolina laws taking effect on New Year's Day. Here are others:

TAXES

Income taxes paid by individuals and corporations fall further starting with the new year.

The wide-ranging tax overhaul law that this year condensed three tax brackets for individual income into one lower rate of 5.8 percent takes another step, cutting the rate again to 5.75 percent in 2015.

The corporation income tax dropped from 6.9 percent to 6 percent in 2014 and now falls to 5 percent in 2015. Corporations could see further tax cuts to 4 percent in 2016 and 3 percent in 2017 if the state meets certain revenue targets.

Republican lawmakers who approved the tax cut also took away breaks to Hollywood and cab drivers. Expiring is a 25 percent tax credit for TV and film productions that in 2013 allowed producers to forego paying $61 million in state taxes. It's being replaced in 2015 by a grant program for video productions capped at $10 million.

Taxi drivers are losing their ability to claim a quarterly refund on the gasoline excise tax for the fuel they bought.

HUNTING FEES

The Wildlife Resources Commission faces new restrictions on how high it can raise fees on hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. Starting with the new year, the fees can't be raised beyond a widely used measure of inflation averaged over the previous five years.

Stony Rushing of Wingate is an avid hunter who likes the idea.

"One of the things about hunting is we want to keep it affordable," said Rushing, a newly installed Union County commissioner. "We do need to be able to protect (wildlife) but also protect the rights of people to go out and do it. Keeping the license fee low is going to, I think, ensure that."

John Spruill of Hampstead said he hopes the new limit doesn't inhibit the state's ability to protect and conserve fish and wildlife populations.

"They can't do that work unless they're properly funded," said Spruill, who buys an annual recreational commercial fishing license so he can catch crabs in coastal waters. "By and large, I would not be in favor of some sweeping action that limits the increase to" inflation.

FRACKING RIGHTS

Home sellers will have to disclose whether they know whether underground oil and gas rights have been sold. A form requires the seller to say whether he or she has sold the rights that could allow underground drilling, or plans to do so before completing the real estate sale. The owner can say nothing on the disclosure about whether the rights have been sold previously.

In 2012 it was reported that Texas-based homebuilder D.R. Horton sold hundreds of new homes without the underground mineral rights as interest in drilling for natural gas deposits builds. The attorney general's office warned that properties stripped of their mineral rights could be harder to refinance and could lose resale value.

ELECTIONS

It'll be a little more difficult for political partisans to toy with the primary election process. People to file as a candidate in a party primary must have had an affiliation with that party for at least 90 days before filing a candidacy notice.

PENSIONS

Public employees will no longer be able to boost their pension benefits by inflating their annual income in their final working years. The agency where the employee worked would be on the hook for an employee's pension spiking efforts because the pension system's share of what is owed to that retirees would be capped.

OTHER CHANGES

Magistrates will be forced to retire at age 72, the same as state judges

Firefighters or emergency medical technicians already on the job will be subject to criminal history checks, a requirement formerly for new applicants. Dismissal depends on the level, seriousness and age of the crime.

State licensing boards that regulate a broad range of professions such as plumbing and cosmetology will be required to recognize military training in occupational specialties if their skills are "substantially equivalent" or better than existing requirements. Licensing boards will have to issue a license, certification, or registration to military spouses if they already have a license in their field in another state and can demonstrate competency in the occupation.

Companies that merged or consolidated with another company before 1972 get new protections from asbestos lawsuits. State law will limit the successor corporation's liability to the fair market value of the previous business's gross assets when it was bought out.

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Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio

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