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Taking a look at the tax code
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Members of the Georgia General Assembly continue to look and study ways to reduce spending and prioritizing state programs. The House of Representatives is looking at ways to reform our tax code, making it fair for all Georgians. Legislation has been introduced to create a blue ribbon committee to study tax reform. Several bills were passed that will help the state catch tax cheats and to collect unpaid state revenue.

House Bill 1405 formed the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians. This council will formulate ideas, give critical analysis, and make recommendations for a modernized, fair tax system for Georgia. The council will submit their proposal to the General Assembly for consideration at the beginning of the 2011 legislative session.

House Bill 982 waives court costs incurred by the Department of Revenue when garnishing the wages of delinquent taxpayers. The Department of Revenue currently pays $160 in court fees per garnishment. The cost of court fees limits the number of garnishments the state files, thus inhibiting the state’s ability to collect taxes owed in this fashion. For example, of a potential 20,000 garnishments in 2009, the Department of Revenue only had the resources to file 240 garnishments.

House Bill 1188 allows the commissioner of the Department of Revenue (DOR) to appoint not more than eight POST certified law enforcement officers as special agents. These agents shall be authorized to enforce criminal laws as to tax matters, and shall have all the powers of a peace officer when engaged in enforcement of these tax matters. Currently, DOR employs four POST certified officers, however these officers are not authorized to enforce the criminal laws of the state on tax matters, and must coordinate with other law enforcement that do not have the expertise in the subject matter. This is a very time consuming process that impedes the Department’s ability to protect State revenues. Last year, this special POST-certified investigation team saved the state $30 million in fraudulent refund claims.

House Bill 1093 is designed to improve the collection of state and local sales and use taxes. Counties and cities choosing to participate will send information to the Department of Revenue, allowing for a cross-check of state and local tax information, ensuring businesses are collecting and remitting sales tax, if they are required to do so. This legislation will help the state in collecting taxes that have not been paid to the state of Georgia.

When these bills are passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor these resources will ease the tax burden on honest, hardworking citizens who responsibly pay their taxes each year.

Other Legislation that passed in the Georgia House of Representatives:
House Bill 1322 provides that certain photographs fewer than five years old which are in the custody of a law enforcement agency which show graphic images to the sexual organs or the dismemberment of the dead body of a crime victim whose identity is known shall not be subject to public disclosure. This bill will protect the integrity of crime victims. When approved by the Senate the bill will become effective upon signature of the governor.

House Bill 1060 allows the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) to obtain its own credit rating instead of using a bank credit facility (such as a letter of credit). Last May, a large portion of GPA’s revenue bonds failed to remarket due to a major bank credit rating downgrade.
Under the bill, GPA must get approval from the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission prior to issuing any bonds and financial plans are reviewed by the GSFIC staff, the state’s financial advisor. Under current law, GPA’s revenue bonds are not state debt and are not a pledge of the state’s faith and credit, and no GPA bondholder can enforce payment against the state. GPA can use bond proceeds only for capital projects-no operating expenses are paid from bond funds. Also in the bill the definition of “project” is clarified to include cranes, cargo handling equipment, and other equipment currently used by the Authority.

House Bill 936 relates to the funds used on refurbishing school buses. In past code they were not allowed to use the money for school buses to refurbish them, the money could only be used to buy new ones or replace old ones. This bill will make it possible for the State Board of Education to use these funds to refurbish buses in need of work. All buses that are refurbished will still be subject to all safety and maintenance inspections, the refurbishment must be completed by the school bus manufacturer or by a dealer of such a manufacturer.

House Bill 1090 abolishes the Georgia Agrirama Development authority and provides that Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) shall be the successor to such authority and shall continue all functions of the authority without interruption. Further, it provides for an assumption of assets and liabilities by ABAC.

Note: Bills have to be passed by both the House and Senate before they are sent to the governor for approval or veto.

Rep. Ann R. Purcell
Suite 504, CLOB
Atlanta GA, 30334
Office: (404) 656-0188