A letter that told local government officials earlier this month that sales tax payments would arrive later than usual was poorly worded, a Department of Revenue spokesman said Tuesday.
The June 8 letter stated that cities and counties would receive their monthly sales tax payments after June 30 and "subsequent monthly distributions will be made after the last business day of each calendar month."
The letter caused an uproar with local government officials who said it would disrupt their established accounting procedures at the end of many local governments’ fiscal years.
But on Friday, Department of Revenue spokesman Reg Lansbury said sales tax checks would be sent on or before Tuesday.
"That does not represent a delay," Lansbury said. "That’s a timely distribution, just as we’ve always made."
Gainesville’s Chief Financial Officer Melody Marlowe said the department also sent a follow-up letter on Friday stating that June sales tax distribution would be available by Tuesday.
"Please be aware that the manner in which you receive your monthly sales tax distribution will not change," the June 19 letter stated.
Marlowe assumed that the follow-up letter was sent after she and other city officials, including the Georgia Municipal Association, voiced concerns to Department of Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham about the supposed changes.
Marlowe said the supposed changes would not have directly affected Gainesville, but it would have caused problems with other local governments’ accounting procedures, according to a Georgia Municipal Association spokeswoman.
"They’re taking it back and going back to the way they have been distributing, I guess because of the outcry," Marlowe said.
Lansbury said the second letter was only meant to clear up confusion caused by the wording of the first letter. He said the intention of the first letter was only to notify local governments of the new Integrated Tax Solution system that the department is now using to process and manage sales tax returns.
"I think the fairest way to say it, is there were parts of that letter beneath that (notification) that were inelegantly phrased," Lansbury said.
Even though the state agency says there was never a plan to change sales tax distribution, local governments’ issues with the Department of Revenue still exist, said Amy Henderson, public information manager for the Georgia Municipal Association.
Although sales tax distributions will come before the end of June, they will still come 10 days later than local governments expect them to, Henderson said.
"...This month, there will be an extra 10 days where they won’t have their sales tax revenue," Henderson said. "If a city is operating on a really tight budget, not having that sales tax revenue for an extra 10 days this month could be an issue."