July 18, 2024

Raleigh and the rest of the Triangle
It’s no secret that the Triangle and North Carolina as a whole have been attracting people in droves from across the state and country in search of economic opportunities and a better quality of life – a trend that accelerated during the height of the pandemic. Now, new information on tax filer migration from the Internal Revenue Service reveals just how much wealth has flowed into the region – and the counties benefiting the most.
There are surprises.
In 2019 and 2020, Wake County gained more than $260 million in annual adjusted gross income when comparing county in-migration and out-migration patterns among tax filers. The county saw a net gain of nearly 4,000 tax filers – many from New York and southern California – during the period. But the dollar figure wasn’t even close to the leading county in the state.
Brunswick County, which stretches from just outside Wilmington along the coast to the South Carolina border, saw $445 million of gross new income while gaining 3,400 tax filers (second in the state behind Wake). And just to the north, New Hanover County was third in the state with $267 million in new gross income gains. In between was Buncombe County (Asheville) with $301 million. The boom was driven in part by the trend toward remote work. High-income earners flooded North Carolina’s coastal counties, pushing the local housing market to extremes.
Overall, each county in the Triangle saw a net gain in income when taking into account both in-state and out-of-state tax filer migration. But the differences are stark. Wake County saw over 36,260 tax filers move in while nearly 32,300 moved out. For Durham, the figures were 14,400 in and 14,100 out for a net income gain of $22.4 million – less than 10 percent of Wake County’s income gain.
Orange County had a net loss in terms of tax filers – 264 – but saw a net gain of $50 million in terms of total adjusted gross income.
Statewide, Chatham County had the highest average adjusted gross income, at $121,000, per tax filer migrating to the county. Moore County was second at $106,000.
The Greater Triangle – stretching from Lee County to Granville – saw a net gain in income of more than $1 billion, according to the IRS data.
But for the Charlotte region, the picture wasn’t so bright. Mecklenburg County lost $192.5 million in total adjusted gross income as many tax filers fled across the border to South Carolina – where Covid restrictions were much more lenient.
It was a similar scenario for the Triad, where Guilford and Forsyth counties saw a combined $125 million leave.
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