Monday, April 4, 2016

General Assembly adopts tax changes

On the final day of its legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly approved several bills involving taxes.

The most significant was Senate Bill 369, which authorizes up to a ½ percent sales tax increase in Atlanta for MARTA expansion, a ¾ percent sales tax increase in Fulton County for transportation, and up to a ½ percent sales tax increase in Atlanta for transportation improvements and congestion reduction. State Senator Brandon Beach said on the final night of the legislative session that Fulton County and cities outside of Atlanta could authorize an additional ¼ percent sales tax for transit. In other words, both Atlanta and Fulton County could each increase their sales tax rate by 1 percent with differing ratios going toward mass transit and roads.

Narrower bills dealing with ad valorem tax breaks for specific industries also passed. House Bill 769 provides a personal property tax exemption to boat dealers and all-terrain vehicle dealers. HB 769 was sent to the governor on April 1. HB 935 authorizes a freeport property tax exemption to fulfilment centers such as Amazon or Walmart that ship merchandise ordered by consumers online or by phone. HB 937 gives a sales tax break for the new Falcons stadium and other projects of "competitive regional significance."

HB 960 makes several changes to taxes administered by the state. Section 1 of the bill clarifies matters of taxpayer confidentiality. Section 2 changes the interest rate calculation for state-issued tax refunds. Section 3 changes the interest charged on past due state taxes from 1 percent to the annual prime loan bank rate. Section 4 changes the penalties for failing to file a return for taxes held in trust for the state. Section 5 amends procedures for tax tribunals. HB 960 is the result of a study committee that found the interest rates were too high.  Neither SB 369 nor HB 960 have been sent to the governor yet.

The House of Representatives did not approve income tax rate reductions (SB 280 and SR 756) or property tax assessment caps (SB 298 and SB 259) proposed by the Senate.

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