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Ask The Times: Excise tax not only levy on Ga. fuel prices

POSTED: January 25, 2014 12:02 a.m.

If you’ve been wondering about something in your community, Ask The Times is your place to get answers. The following questions were submitted by readers and answered through the efforts of our news staff.

In the “State earns ‘C’ grade for infrastructure” article from Jan. 15, it states “Georgia’s state motor fuel excise tax, which funds surface transportation projects, is one of the lowest in the United States.” If that is true, why are gas prices in South Carolina consistently lower than Georgia prices. Do we pay a lot of state tax on gas that is not used for surface transportation projects and maintenance?

While Georgia’s state excise tax is lower than most, including South Carolina, there are other taxes that apply to motor fuel.

In addition to the excise tax, Georgia applies sales tax to gasoline sales, though it is collected differently. According to Rick Gardner, supervisor of the Specialized Tax Group at the Georgia Department of Revenue, gasoline suppliers must collect a prepaid sales tax based on the average retail sales price of the fuel, which is published semi-annually by the department.

The tax includes both the 4 percent state sales tax, as well as any local county or municipality sales tax.

Hall County imposes an additional 3 percent sales tax that is broken up evenly between the local option sales tax, which is used to reduce property taxes and raise money for the county; the special local option sales tax, which funds specific capital projects in the county; and the SPLOST for education, which funds educational projects.

According to the department of revenue, Georgia collected more than $1 billion in the fiscal year 2012 from the prepaid motor fuel sales tax and motor fuel excise tax.

Georgia currently has the 21st most expensive gasoline tax in the country at a total, including a federal excise tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, of 46.85 cents per gallon, according to the American Petroleum Institute, a national trade association that tracks taxes on oil and natural gas. However, it has the third lowest excise tax, behind only Florida and Pennsylvania.

South Carolina has the third lowest total gasoline taxes, at just 35.15 cents per gallon. Tennessee is also lower than Georgia, with 39.80 cents per gallon in total gas taxes, but North Carolina is higher with 56.15 cents per gallon.

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