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Banking & Finance

Georgia Retailers Oppose Moving Sales Tax Collection to County, City Level

11/09/2009 - It’s been a tough year for the retail business in Georgia, but the Georgia Retail Association (GRA) continues to work on issues affecting its members.  Last week, the GRA met with staff of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) to discuss issues surrounding upcoming legislation which would create a new method of collecting sales taxes in Georgia at a county, or even city level.

On behalf of its members, GRA has worked diligently to derail such discussions on the two bills which were introduced in the Georgia House earlier this year, according to John C. Heavener, president of GRA. The GRA and ACCG are proposing different methods that will have better collection ratios.

As a result of the meeting, GRA and ACCG agreed not to pursue legislation next year, but rather to work together on fixing the current system. The next step for the GRA is to work with the Georgia Department of Revenue prior to the beginning of the 2010 session of the General Assembly in January.

Counties have issues concerning the flow of information, poor service, and a need for a quicker turnaround of their share of sales tax revenue. Chatham County Commission Pete Liakakis would like to see sales tax collection responsibility move to the county level.

“We can do it better if they allow all the counties to collect it and send it to Atlanta, because they just don’t have enough employees to check a lot of places,” he said. “We have people not just in Savannah but around the state who are not reporting their sales tax collections,” he stated.

“The counties have more personnel and a better ability to audit,” said Liakakis. “The ACCG is going along with the GRA, but I go one further than just fixing the problems with the state’s collection system. We ought to have legislation that allows the counties to collect.”

The Georgia Retail Association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet and independent stores, as well as grocery stores, was formed in 1961. The group represents an industry with more than 71,300 retail establishments, and more than 715,000 employees – about one in five of Georgia’s workers – with annual sales of more than $115 billion, according to Heavener.

On the national level, the GRA is also following HR 4011, Organized Retail Crime Prevention and Enforcement Act.  House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, heard testimony from four federal law enforcement agencies on the effects of organized retail crime on consumers, retailers and law enforcement.

The subcommittee heard how federal law enforcement agencies are tackling the growing problem and what more can be done with federal legislation to assist in the effective prosecution of ORC cases.

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