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Study shows government is missing out on sales tax revenues
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The members of the Joint Local Government Association have agreed to work together to do whatever it takes to get their fair share of sales tax dollars.

Local real estate executive Frank Norton Jr. presented a study to a group of city and county officials at the Mulberry Creek Community Center Monday night that estimates Hall County was slighted millions of dollars due to inconsistencies in the Department of Revenue’s distribution method.

The study looked at numbers reported from Hall County retailers on food, gas and automobile sales compared with state sales tax money returned to the county from the years 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Norton estimates the county should have received $25.8 million more in sales tax money over the three-year period.

His data showed the Department of Revenue’s payments were inconsistent and on average were between 20 percent and 46 percent below what he calculated they should have been.

Norton’s study supports Hall County’s participation in a pilot study with the Department of Revenue that showed a number of issues with the current system.

Cross checks in the pilot study revealed 957 Hall County businesses that were not on the department’s sales tax list and 680 businesses that were reporting sales taxes to the state but did not hold a business license in Hall County.

"You can see the inconsistencies in state numbers," Norton said.

Assistant Hall County Administrator Phil Sutton, who worked extensively on the pilot study on behalf of Hall County, said solidarity from the other local governments would be beneficial.

"We’d like some support from the cities and county government to make sure they hear us," Sutton said. "It’s getting worse and worse every year."

Norton proposed showing the information to Hall County’s legislative delegation in hopes of getting their support in the General Assembly.

"I think it’s a great idea to bring the legislative
delegation and show them these numbers," said Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett.

Norton said a way to improve sales tax collection in the future is to create more retail establishments.

"We have to improve as a community, ourselves as a regional draw," Norton said.

"There’s some retail we just don’t have," Sutton said.

Norton also suggested a campaign to inform Hall County residents of the importance of shopping at home.

"If we could convince all the mothers that have kids in our school system of the importance of buying Christmas or back-to-school clothes in a Hall County store versus a store in Gwinnett County or the Mall of Georgia or North Georgia Premium Outlets, leaving the sales tax dollars here to help build her children’s schools, keep her schools up and build parks -- that would go a long way," Norton said.