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Albany-area governments to consider partnership with DOR

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY, Ga. -- The commissions for both the city of Albany and Dougherty County are considering separate resolutions that would promote a partnership with the state Department of Revenue designed to help make the sales tax collection process more fair.

Stemming from action taken by the General Assembly last year and startling results from a pilot study done jointly by the DOR and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, city and county governments across the state are being asked to share their business license lists with the state.

Beth Brown, a spokesperson with ACCG, said the intent is to ensure that the state's list of businesses which pay sales taxes matches the list of businesses with licenses kept by local government.

"It's really about ensuring a fair and equitable tax process," Brown said. "The pilot study showed that a significant number of businesses in three counties were not properly paying their share of sales taxes, which isn't fair to the businesses who are."

In Hall County, for instance, local leaders were stunned to see that the difference between the state list and the local list of businesses was as high as 25 percent, which translated to roughly $25 million in lost revenue for the state and local governments.

That's why ACCG has made bolstering the relationship between the Department of Revenue and Georgia counties one of its legislative priorities for 2011. The organization has even gone on to recommend that the legislature create a DOR advisory council to review the department and help secure the funding it needs to properly operate and manage Georgia's revenues.

Currently, Brown said, the DOR only has enough staff and resources to audit less than 1 percent of its accounts, which means there is a strong risk of the state hemorrhaging money.

Requests for information and comment from the DOR were not returned Thursday.

Krista Newton, the finance director for the city of Albany, said the resolution could help fix a lot of the miscommunications between businesses, local governments and the state when it comes to sales taxes.

"They'll get our list of business license holders, and we'll find out who may have been paying the sales taxes but don't have a business license," Newton said. "The state will likely get the better end of the deal, but we'll see a benefit as well."

According to the resolution currently up for consideration by the Dougherty County Commission, businesses would be required to provide information such as their legal name, mailing address, physical address and the sales and use tax identification numbers to the county, which will, in turn, provide that information to the state.

The city commission is expected to adopt a similar resolution.

The Lee County Commission also discussed adopting such a resolution at its work session Tuesday.