Tax commissioner to businesses: Collect TSPLOST or pay it yourselves - North Atlanta Business Post
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Updated Nov 14 @ 1:05PM

Tax commissioner to businesses: Collect TSPLOST or pay it yourselves

The Johns Creek Advantage Board of Directors discuss agenda items at its Jan. 26 meeting. From left are Fulton County Schools Area Superintendent Clifford Jones, Piedmont Office Realty VP Bo” Reddic, Johns Creek City Manager Warren Hutmacher, World Financial Group VP Kent Davies, State Revenue Commisioner Lynne Riley, Johns Creek Advantage CEO Courtney Bernardi, Johns Creek Assistant City Manager Eric Tucker, entrepreneur Anand Thaker and State Farm Insurance Operations Manager Sue Cook.

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Now that Fulton County cities have approved the Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax, it is all on the merchants’ shoulders to collect the tax at the point of sale – or get a bill from the state Department of Revenue if they fail.

That was the cautionary note Georgia Tax Commissioner Lynne Riley brought to a Jan. 26 meeting of the board of Johns Creek Advantage, the public-private economic development arm of the city.

Riley also is chairwoman of the JCA Board of Directors, and she pointed out that the JCA should spread the word to local businesses about collections.

Should businesses fail to begin collecting the new tax, it would be her sad duty to present defaulters with a bill from the Department of Revenue.

“The Revenue Department is the recipient of TSPLOST taxes just as it is for all sales tax. And it’s up to the merchant to be sure to collect that .75-cent extra tax for the TSPLOST or be responsible for paying the shortage,” Riley said.

While the state tax collection system is programmed to accept voluntary compliance by merchants, spot auditors will be out there checking on compliance.

“If you as the merchant don’t collect it, you owe it,” Riley said.

The .75 cent sales tax begins April 1.

For North Fulton cities, those TSPLOST remittance checks directly from the Department of Revenue will begin May 20, she said. Anyone with a sales tax certificate is responsible for collecting the TSPLOST.

Riley’s board members quizzed her about what to look for in the new legislative session, but she said there is no reason to get excited yet.

“It’s still too early to tell what will stick,” she said. “Regulation of fantasy sports has come up very early in conversations.”

The JCA directors also discussed creation of a Johns Creek development authority. City and county development authorities can tap into a state economic development fund which they can draw on to loan to businesses as an inducement to locate in their town or county.

The respective taxpayers of the county or city are not liable for any loan defaults. Fulton County has such a development authority, as do many cities, but Johns Creek does not.

Such authorities receive their charter from the state and economic development entity separate from city or county government. Their sole charge is to improve local economies by encouraging development.

The matter has been brought up to the Johns Creek City Council before, but there has been no action.

“There is no sense of urgency on the council to get it done,” one board member said.

It’s an inducement other area cities have that Johns Creek cannot offer, so from an economic development standpoint, Johns Creek is at a disadvantage, Riley said.

“You can’t create [an authority] retroactively,” she said. “A project could come along that is important to the city, but Fulton County may have higher priorities. It’s a gap in our ability to be competitive with our peer cities.”

JCA CEO Courtney Bernardi agreed.

“We don’t have a development authority when every other city in North Fulton does, that’s a huge hit when we are courting a business to settle in our city,” Bernardi said. “The absence of a development authority is a silent message to prospects that we are not serious.”

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