FAQ: Confidentiality and Privilege Licenses

I recently received an excellent question from a municipality that I thought I’d share with you all:

“I have a public records request for privilege license information – specifically for the business name and what they pay for the privilege license. I believe this is all public information. Am I correct?”

If you have been to one of the Records Analysis Unit’s Confidentiality workshops, you might remember my favorite default answer to these kinds of questions: “It depends.”

www.records.ncdcr.gov-local-municipal_2012.pdf

Since privilege license records are tax records, you have to be careful when considering releasing this information. G.S. §132-1.1(b) states “records that contain information about a taxpayer’s income or receipts may not be disclosed.” So, if the privilege license for these businesses (such as internet cafes) is determined based on receipts pursuant to G.S. 160A-211, the amount which the business pays for the license is confidential. In fact, the income information and receipt amounts are highly confidential, as discussed in G.S.§160A-208.1, but the law permits you the option of releasing the other information (business name, address, etc.).

Now, if a municipality does not use an income or receipts basis for privilege taxes, then you’re fine to release the names of businesses and the amount they pay, especially since the amount would come from a tax schedule that is probably already public through resolution or ordinance.

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