Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tax office schedule announcement

City Hall including the tax office will be closed on January 1-2. If you need information about taxes during this time period, please use our website at From there you can search, view, and pay property taxes with no convenience fee by electronic check, or by credit card with a convenience fee. Occupation taxes (business license fees) can also be paid from this website without a convenience fee.  Our office will re-open on Monday, January 5.  If you are attempting to pay taxes for the 2nd installment of 2014, please note that there is a payment grace period up through Jan. 8, 2015, during which time no penalties or interest will be added to past due accounts.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Your expiring business license

Business licenses in Decatur show an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2014. However, you have until January 31 to renew your license for 2015 without penalty. That being said, if you think you will need an unexpired business license (also known as an occupation tax certificate) during the month of January in order to obtain a business loan, business checking account, or to protect yourself in the event of legal claims by customers or employees, you may want to renew early.

Renewal notices/invoices were mailed in November. You can renew in person at 509 North McDonough Street; by mail to P.O. Box 220, Decatur, GA 30031; or online through after clicking on Occupation Tax on the left side of the screen.

Payment of the occupation tax may or may not be the only thing we need in order to renew your license.  Non-citizens need to file SAVE affidavits annually and businesses with over 10 employees need to file E-Verify numbers annually in order to renew their license.  Affidavits can be submitted with your paper renewal or can be uploaded if you're renewing online.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Reminder: lawyers' occupation taxes due by Dec. 31

Occupation taxes from attorneys practicing in Decatur are due by December 31 in accordance with City ordinance, Art. II, Sec. 22-26(b).  Our office will be open from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

Payment options:
Attorneys are encouraged to pay this $425 tax online. Our website allows for payments by Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, PayPal, PayPal Credit, or electronic check. No additional fees are charged for paying online—just the principal amount. There is no registration or login process. Just go to, click on “Occupational Tax” on the left side, select 2014 as the year, and enter your name as it appears on your bill. Once you’ve accessed your record, click "Renew," enter some basic information, and you’ll see your options to pay.  You can also use this website to access a copy of your occupation tax certificate.

If you prefer, payments can be made in person at City Hall at 509 N. McDonough St. by cash, check, or credit card; or by mail to City of Decatur, PO Box 220, 30031. If paying by mail, please enclose the bottom portion of your invoice so we can apply your payment to the right record.

Authority to tax:
Barnes v. City of Atlanta holds that local occupation taxes on attorneys must be revenue measures only, not regulatory in nature. Decatur’s occupation tax ordinance expressly states that the occupation tax is levied “for revenue purposes only and is not for regulatory purposes” (Sec. 22-15).

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tax office to re-open on Dec. 29

City Hall including the Decatur Revenue Division will be closed on Thursday, December 25 and Friday, December 26.  If you need information about taxes during the holiday, please use our website at From there you can search, view, and pay property taxes with no convenience fee by electronic check, or by credit card with a convenience fee. Occupation taxes (business license fees) can also be paid from this website without a convenience fee.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Tax payment grace period offered till Jan. 8

Decatur's due date for 2014 2nd installment real property taxes was today.  However, the City offers a payment grace period during which no penalties or interest apply to unpaid accounts.  The grace period this year will last until January 8, 2015.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Update on state university concessionaire tax exemptions

The Fulton County Daily Report reported last month that the state Board of Regents has signed a 65-year contract with Corvias, a student housing company, to provide almost 10,000 beds across nine state university campuses for an initial outlay of $517 million. The Daily Report quoted an attorney involved in the Board of Regents-Corvias deal as saying, “A lot of other university systems have been watching the Board of Regents' process, and we think it is going to be a model nationwide." The contract was awarded shortly after voters approved a referendum guaranteeing tax-exempt status for state university student parking and dormitories that are leased and managed by private companies.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Resolution passed to expand homestead exemptions

In a first step toward expanding two existing homestead exemptions and adding a new homestead exemption, the Decatur City Commission unanimously approved a resolution on Monday night to move the measure forward. The proposal stems from the City Commission’s desire to enact tax relief for residential property owners—particularly to senior residents on low or fixed incomes. The next step would be for the proposed exemption changes to be considered by the Georgia General Assembly to pass local legislation for an eventual referendum on the exemptions in 2015.

The proposal would increase the GH1 basic homestead exemption by exempting $25,000 in assessed value rather than the current $20,000 (which would save approximately $60 on resident homeowners’ tax bills annually assuming no change in property value or in the millage rates). Secondly, the GH2 (age 65) exemption amount of $1,000 would be increased to $10,000 (which would be a savings of an additional $100 per eligible taxpayer), and the addition of a GH3 exemption for homeowners over 62 with household income under $50,000 that would save about $175 per year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Please remit by tomorrow if paying by e-check

If you are planning to pay your Decatur property tax with an electronic check on our website at, I encourage you to make your payment today or tomorrow.  E-checks can take three to five days to clear the bank, and our formal payment deadline this installment is Dec. 22, 2014.  Our website allows for e-check payments with zero convenience fees, and for credit card payments with convenience fees.  We also continue to accept payments by mail or in-person up through the payment due date.  If you have any issues with the website or the e-check option, please call 404-370-4100.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cuts to federal tax credits for historic property rehabilitation under consideration

Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recently wrote an opinion piece highlighting the effectiveness of income tax credits for historic preservation of properties leading up to a national historic preservation conference in Savannah last month. Meeks also says that Congress is considering a repeal of the tax credit:

…Unfortunately, the federal historic tax credit has recently come under threat in Washington. As part of a broader proposal for comprehensive tax reform, the current chairman of the House of Representatives’ tax-writing committee has proposed a repeal of the federal credit. This would consign hundreds of worthy historic rehabilitation projects across the state to uncertain futures. It would harm the Georgia state credit — without the coupling impact of the federal and state tax credit programs, the effectiveness of Georgia’s investments would be vastly diminished. As the Senate Finance Committee considers tax reform proposals in the new Congress, we stand ready to work with Sen. Johnny Isakson — a member of the committee and soon to be Georgia’s senior senator — on legislative efforts to improve the tax credit without losing these vital benefits for communities.
These tax credits are going to be a focal point of discussion at our conference. We’re excited to hear from Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, who will discuss how, over the past two years, his city has had the most tax credit projects in the state of Georgia… 

For property tax purposes in Georgia, properties that have undergone rehabilitative work within set timeframes and improved the property value by set amounts can qualify for an assessment freeze of their property value for 8½ years. Interested property owners can apply for certification by the state Department of Natural Resources then apply for preferential assessment with the DeKalb County tax assessors office. This tax benefit is separate and additional to the state and federal income tax credits that Meeks described.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Federal government promises chip-enabled payment acceptance

Most credit cards in the U.S. have been replaced this year or will be replaced next year with cards that contain a special chip. Retailers are in the process of upgrading payment terminals to accept payments on these newer cards with entry of a PIN by the customer.  The private sector is generally ahead of government entities in adoption of the new chip-and-PIN (also known as EMV) technology, but the Obama administration has announced that federal agencies will begin accepting EMV payments soon.

Specifically, the White House says any new "retail payment card terminals at federal agency facilities" must be chip enabled beginning January 1, 2015.  I'm not sure what exactly this would include, and whether any federal facilities in the Atlanta area accept retail-style credit card payments. To the best of my knowledge, the Internal Revenue Service does not accept credit card payments for income taxes.  The IRS accepts checks, electronic checks, and (according to their website) they accept cash payments with exact change at their two Atlanta-area offices. Perhaps gift shops at national parks would be included.

No EMV directives have come from the governor's office for state agency payment acceptance, and there is no requirement yet for cities or counties in Georgia to accept payments using EMV-enabled terminals.  In October 2015, merchants including government entities that accept credit card payments will face greater liability in the event of credit card fraud committed as a result of credit card transactions made at terminals that aren't chip-and-PIN enabled.

Locally, Kroger has already installed the hardware necessary to accept EMV cards, but won't have the software ready to make it work until next year. Reportedly, Target, Walmart, Home Depot, and Walgreens will be able to accept chip and PIN payments in or before January 2015.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Doraville offers freeport exemption in 2015

Last month, voters in Doraville approved a freeport tax exemption for personal property (property which usually consists of business inventory). The measure passed was for a “level 1” exemption, meaning that there are still some types of business inventory that would remain taxable. A “level 2” freeport exemption would exempt more types of business inventory. Freeport exemptions for businesses work similarly to homestead exemptions for residents by exempting at least a portion of the property’s value. To some extent, freeport exemptions reduce the commercial share of the tax base relative to the residential share. Decatur does not provide a freeport exemption. 

From the AJC last month:
Doraville voters pass manufacturing tax breaks 
Doraville voters approved three tax breaks for businesses during last week’s election. The initiatives, known as freeport exemptions, are intended to attract and retain manufacturing and logistics industries, according to the city. Voters passed each of the ballot measures by about 2-to-1 margins. The exemptions on local ad valorem taxes apply to: 
  • Inventory of goods in the process of being manufactured or produced, including raw materials and partly finished goods. 
  • Finished goods produced in Georgia within the last 12 months 
  • Finished goods stored in Georgia within the last 12 months and destined for shipment out of state
Residents in the city of Stone Mountain approved a similar tax break, making them the first two DeKalb County cities to do so. The county adopted a version of the freeport exemption in 1977.