Georgia lawmakers look at tax shift

Georgians would pay higher sales taxes in exchange for lower income taxes under a series of proposals backed by some top Republicans in the state Senate.

But before the state’s accountants start adjusting tax forms, remember: Tax reform plans were also the rage in the 2011 session but failed to get a vote as the GOP majority could not find consensus.

 

Lawmakers will return to Atlanta Jan.9 for the start of the 40-day legislative session and already changes to the tax code are an admitted top priority of leaders in both the House and Senate. But while House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and Gov. Nathan Deal are keeping their ideas for reform to themselves for now, some in the Senate have already put plans on paper.

 

At a recent meeting of a joint House-Senate committee studying tax changes, Senate leaders released a summary of three major changes that could be considered. Each measure would be offset by an accompanying decrease in the state individual income tax. They are:

 

-- A $1 per pack increase in the state cigarette tax, to $1.37, which would raise an estimated $334.80 million a year; it would result in a 0.13 percent decrease in income tax.

 

-- A 1-cent increase in the state sales tax, to 5 percent, which would raise an estimated $1.31 billion a year; it would result in a 0.85 percent decrease in income tax.

 

-- Applying the existing 4 percent state sales tax to groceries, which would raise an estimated $560.65 million a year; it would result in a 0.30 percent decrease in income tax.

 

Senate leaders, however, stress that these are merely ideas and not a solid plan. Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, the chamber’s president pro tem, said he favors an increase in consumption taxes for a cut in income tax.

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