by Nyamekye Daniel
Georgia counties are asking lawmakers to expand the state sales tax during the 2022 legislative session to reduce their dependency on property taxes.
The ACCG, an advocacy group for Georgia’s counties, is calling on the General Assembly to tax Georgians for digital products such as videos and music, often purchased through a streaming service.
“This would bring tax in line so that it’s equal across the board. There’s no winners or losers,” ACCG Legislative Associate Eric Lopez said during a virtual news conference Thursday. “This just puts that sales tax across everything for those same types of items, whether you’re buying them physically or streaming them digitally.”
Lopez said the change would update the state’s tax system to reflect trends in the current economy. The music and video markets have migrated from brick-and-mortar stores over the past decade. Online streaming services dominate the markets. They often require a monthly subscription fee.
The state started collecting sales tax for online purchases in April. The new law has helped prop up the state’s coffers during the pandemic as COVID-19 restrictions have limited in-person shopping and stock, according to the state economist.
ACCG also wants the state to allow local governments to decide what sales and use tax models work best for them. Lopez said it would give counties more flexibility to manage the revenue according to their needs.
Local governments also are pushing for an increase in title and tag fees, which ACCG said have been stagnant for multiple decades despite increasing administrative costs. Even when the fees were increased, the state, not local governments, benefited from the revenue, the group said.
“Over the past 20 to 30 years, we haven’t seen an update in the amount that’s charged for both tag and title fees in the state,” Lopez said.
ACCG is calling on lawmakers to increase the state’s vehicle title application fee from $18 to $20 and the title replacement fee from $8 to $20. Counties want a greater portion of the revenue from annual tag fees as well.
ACCG wants lawmakers to ensure a special transportation sales tax, collected in 40 counties, continues for the maximum time.
The Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) is a sales tax used for transportation projects. Current law allows it to be collected for five years.
One of ACCG’s other top priorities for the upcoming legislative session is mental health, which also is at the top of the legislative agenda for Republican leaders.
Legislative Associate Gabriel Carter said increasing mental health resources in the state could shrink counties’ public safety budgets. By diverting Georgians with mental illnesses to appropriate programs, ACCG believes counties could reduce their jail populations.
Georgia’s 2022 legislative session starts Monday.
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Nyamekye Daniel is a staff reporter for The Center Square. She has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel’s work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.