Monday, November 25, 2013

Decatur bills 638 insurance companies

Earlier this month, Decatur sent bills for $75 to 638 insurance carriers that write policies in the city.  Insurance companies can mail in their payments or--for the first time--pay by credit card online at

State law says the license fee is imposed on insurance companies “for the privilege of engaging in the business of insurance” within Georgia’s cities.  The fee varies by city based on population in accordance with a state formula.

At $75 per carrier, Decatur’s insurance company billing for 2014 amounts to $47,850.  The fee payments represent about 10 percent of the city’s total occupational tax revenues, which go toward city operations and services.  During the last fiscal year, the city collected about $43,500 in license fees from insurance companies.
Our tax collection rate from insurance companies tends to be lower than other occupational tax types partly because of unpredictability and variation in the insurance market each year.  If an insurance company writes no business in Decatur in a given year, they are not required to pay the fee for that year.

In addition to their payment, insurance companies are required to file a notarized affidavit annually regarding their compliance with immigration laws.  If they renew online, they can just upload their affidavit rather than mailing it in.

Local, independent insurance companies are required to obtain a regular business license from City Hall which may run from $315 to $425 annually.

The city does not regulate insurance practices; Georgia’s insurance commissioner regulates insurance companies and licenses insurance agents.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tax implications of the Braves move

As the Atlanta Braves prepare to move up the road, Cobb County businesses, residents, and visitors will face a handful of new or increased taxes.  Here’s what we know of so far:

·         A 3-mill property tax increase for 175 businesses in the Cumberland Community Improvement District, stretching from parts of Paces Ferry to Powers Ferry.
·         A new 3 percent car rental tax countywide.
·         A new $3 per room per night hotel tax at hotels in the Cumberland area.
·         $368 million in Cobb County Exhibit Hall Authority bonds over 30 years.
·         A reallocation of $8.7 million in property taxes collected countwide—money that would have otherwise been spent on by Cobb County other recreation and greenspace initiatives.
·         45 acres of the new Braves site will be taxable, but 15 acres will be tax-exempt.


·         Future highway access improvements to the stadium and who will pay for them.
·         Will retailers in the Cumberland CID pass their higher property tax costs onto their customers in the form of higher prices?  Forbes’s “Tax Girl” Kelly Erb says, “Of course, savvy consumers realize that corporations don’t simply eat tax and other increases: they pass those increases along to consumers. Higher taxes for businesses will likely result in higher costs for taxpayers, just on a receipt and not on a tax bill.”
·         Will Atlanta itself receive any tax reduction now that the Braves are departing?

Taken in combination with the renewal of Cobb’s SPLOST earlier this month, it seems like Cobb County’s reputation as a low-tax haven in metro-Atlanta may be fading somewhat—a phenomenon which, over time, could help Decatur and DeKalb’s attractiveness in the metro-area by comparison.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tax recap from Election Day

Voters in several North Georgia cities and counties cast ballots on a host of tax measures in last Tuesday’s elections.

A 54-46 majority of voters in Cobb County, a traditionally low-tax county, authorized a $68 million bond that could raise Cobb’s property tax millage rate by 2 mills, which would increase taxes there by $200 annually per $100,000 in assessed value.

Also in the metro-area, majorities in Gwinnett County (58-41) and Henry County (54-46) approved renewals of 1 percent special local option sales taxes (SPLOST), and Rockdale County voters passed a 1-cent sales tax for education. 

Elsewhere in North Georgia, majorities in Lumpkin (70-30), Walker (68-32), Carroll, Gilmer, Haralson, Madison, and Union County also approved SPLOSTs.

Anti-tax sentiment was more pronounced in Habersham County, where SPLOST renewal was defeated 54-46, and in Fayette County where a SPLOST for stormwater drainage projects was defeated 57-43.  A SPLOST in Floyd County barely passed.

Voters in the City of Clarkesville in Habersham County passed tax relief for businesses by approving Freeport exemptions on business inventories.

The City of Decatur and DeKalb County had no proposed tax changes on the ballot.

Monday, November 4, 2013

City launches online payment option for lawyers

This year, for the first time, lawyers can pay their occupation tax online with a credit card from the convenience of their law office or home.

Each attorney practicing law in Decatur pays a $425 annual occupation tax to the city, which is billed on Oct. 31 and due no later than Dec. 31.

Our new online system allows for payments by Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and Paypal.  No additional fees are imposed for paying on the web--just the $425 amount. This is a pretty good deal for occupation taxpayers considering that other types of local government taxes often involve surcharges for online payments.

Users are not required to create an account.  There is no registration process, no login or user name, no passwords, and no PINs. 

To use the service, just go to and click on "Occupation Tax" on the upper left. Select 2013 as the year, search by "Business Name" and enter your name as it appears on your tax statement to pull up your record.  Once you've accessed your record, you'll see your option to pay.

We still accept cash, check, or charge in person, and checks through the mail.  But we encourage all lawyers to consider using the new online service.

The city also accepts online credit card payments for recreation programs, after-school and summer camp registration, parking tickets, commercial sanitation services, storm water drainage fees, and property taxes.  This latest addition to the city's online payment menu stems from the city's ongoing commitment to support local professionals and businesses through greater automation of services.

Online renewals for regular business license payments will be available later this year.