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Hall Co. officials hope to change method of sales tax collection
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Hall County officials will meet at 10:30 a.m. today with the Department of Revenue to discuss sales tax collection and distribution, a heated issue among politicians this year.

The meeting, arranged by state Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, will bring together officials from the county’s board of commissioners, city councils and school boards, all of whom rely heavily on sales tax.

Hall County is currently one of three counties in the state working with the state agency to analyze records in an attempt to determine if the counties are getting their correct allocation of sales tax revenues.

The pilot program has showed discrepancies between the number of business licenses and the number of businesses who pay sales taxes to the state.

Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver, who has advocated for local governments collecting their own sales taxes, is pleased that state officials are taking the situation seriously.

Oliver had planned his own meeting with local governments to discuss the issues Thursday but postponed it after receiving an invitation to attend the meeting at the Capitol.

“We’re pushing, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to meet with the state,” Oliver said. “We hope to have some legislation available to give to our delegation to introduce.”

Rogers said the meeting will aim to inform local governments about the process of collecting sales taxes.

“It’s a meeting with the Department of Revenue and their technical people to explain the ins and outs and answer any questions,” Rogers said. “It’s mainly a learning process for the cities and counties to learn how to address the problems.”

Representatives from the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association also will be present.

“We want to figure out a way they could make sales tax collection more fair and more accurate,” said Beth Brown, spokeswoman for the county commission group. “They realize there’s a problem in this area.”

Gainesville Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan hopes city officials can start a dialogue with the Department of Revenue at the meeting.

For years, city officials across the state have asked for point of sale information on sales tax collections, and last month, Gainesville officials urged the local legislative delegation to privatize sales tax collections.

“We’re just making sure we get what’s due to us,” Dunagan said. “And we don’t feel like we’re getting that now.”

City officials originally had planned to attend the Hall County meeting Thursday and sign a petition that would urge lawmakers to allow local governments to collect their own sales tax, Dunagan said.

Rogers said sales tax collection has become a priority for cities, counties and school boards during the past year as the state of the economy has caused revenues to plummet.

“They feel slighted,” Rogers said of the amount of sales tax local governments are receiving. “Two years ago, three years ago it wasn’t an issue. Since we’re in the downturn it is an issue.”