Many of you have contacted me wanting to know what the General Assembly is doing to collect from delinquent taxpayers. We are determined to make sure everyone is paying their fair share of taxes and are looking at ways to reform our tax code to make it fair for all Georgians. This is what you honest, hardworking, taxpaying Georgians deserve.
With that in mind, the House introduced legislation this week creating a blue ribbon committee to study tax reform and passed several bills to help the state catch tax cheats and deadbeats (also known as delinquent taxpayers) and to collect unpaid state revenue.
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, 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 authorizes Department of Revenue law enforcement officers to tackle tax fraud and theft without assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation or local law enforcement. Just last year, this special investigation team saved the state $30 million in fraudulent refund claims.
House Bill 1093 ensures that businesses operating in Georgia are collecting and remitting sales tax as required by law. This legislation allows local governments currently levying an occupation tax or regulatory fee through the use of business licenses to send the information gathered in the business license application to the Department of Revenue.
The Department of Revenue will then cross-reference this information with its own information to determine if the business is in compliance by submitting their state and local sales tax.
The Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians, HB 1405, will be tasked with formulating ideas, giving critical analysis and making recommendations for a modernized, fair tax system for Georgia.
The council will be made up of economists, two former governors, business leaders throughout the state, and other experts appointed by the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor.
Upon completion of their work, the council will submit a proposal to the General Assembly for consideration at the beginning of the 2011 Legislative Session.
I am confident that each of these bills will help the state in collecting taxes that have not been paid. Finding these resources will ease the tax burden on you honest, hardworking citizens who responsibly pay your taxes each year. Now that these bills have been passed by the House, they will go to the Senate for consideration.
In Dawson County, additional senior citizen tax relief is in the works. House Bills 1326, 1327 & 1333 have passed the House and are now in the Senate.
These bills will allow the voters of Dawson County to vote this November on additional senior homestead tax relief.
HB 1326 and 1327 will correct earlier bills and exclude social security and disability benefits from the $50,000 income limits to qualify for the earlier bills’ homestead exemptions.
HB 1333 will give seniors age 70 and above relief in the form of a $300,000 exemption from the fair market value of homesteaded property for school taxes.
Lumpkin County voters passed senior citizen tax relief several years ago similar to Dawson County’s proposed House Bill 1333 for school taxes.
Two years ago, Lumpkin County voters voted to lower the age for school tax relief from 70 to 65 and include a lesser amount of relief from city and county ad valorem taxes.
While only some 15 percent of Lumpkin County voters are 65 and over, this legislation passed by over 80 percent.
It’s important to remember, senior homestead tax relief is a tax shift from those who qualify and apply for it to those who do not. It does not take away any revenue from the city, county or schools. The tax shift per parcel in Lumpkin County was about $34 (about the cost of a dinner for two).
Two House bills have been introduced to assist in the operation of the Lumpkin County Magistrate Court.
HB 1057 is statewide Magistrate Court legislation, which would change state law to allow local law to be changed “at any time.”
HB 1378 is the companion local legislation, which would allow Magistrate Judge Jeff Lowe to appoint a clerk of his choosing. HB 1378 would become effective only if HB 1057 passes the General Assembly and becomes law.
Dawson County’s Magistrate Judge, Lisa Thurmond, has her own court clerks. Lumpkin County’s Magistrate Judge, Jeff Lowe, must depend on the Clerk of the Superior Court, Rita Harkins.
I want to thank all parties for their inputs and especially Judge Thurmond for her keen insight on the benefits of a separate Magistrate Court Clerk.
In addition to these and all other bills passed by the House this week, there was a very interesting piece of new legislation introduced. House Resolution 1590 is a constitutional amendment that would move the Georgia 4-H program from the Board of Regents to the Department of Agriculture. This move has become necessary due to a recent attempt by the University of Georgia to close all 4-H facilities across the state.
I still need to hear from you before we vote on the FY 2011 Budget and other bills of interest.
I will be at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Dahlonega for Saturday breakfast with constituents at 8 a.m. on March 27 and April 10. On April 3 at 8:30 a.m., I will be at Ryan’s Steakhouse (Hwy. 53 and Ga. 400) in Dawson County for Saturday breakfast.
Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 401 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30334; (404) 657-8534; fax (404) 463-2044; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.