2 plans would collect sales tax

ATLANTA --- Could hundreds of millions of dollars in Georgia sales taxes be going uncollected every year?

Maybe, say some Georgia lawmakers. And with the state fighting its way out of a huge budget hole, they're pushing proposals aimed at catching cheats.

Competing plans pushed by Republicans and Democrats at the state Capitol would require sales tax license lists to be crosschecked with sales tax receipts to make sure companies are paying their share.

The GOP proposal would place that responsibility with the state Department of Revenue. Democrats say their plan is a "two-way street" in which the state and local governments would share the information.

House Ways and Means Chairman Larry O'Neal said a pilot program showed there is a problem.

"There is a lot of fraud and abuse in the system," the Bonaire Republican said.

In a series of gubernatorial debates, House Minority Leader DuBose Porter has said an estimated $1 billion in sales tax receipts is going uncollected. Scooping up that money could help solve multiple budget woes, he has argued.

But Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham called Porter's $1 billion figure "a made up number" that would require some 32,000 businesses be collecting $500,000 in revenue the state doesn't know about.

Graham also argued that the Democrats' plan would violate state taxpayer confidentiality laws.

The revenue department has also noted that Porter's idea of collecting sales tax locally is already in place in Alabama, where it has spawned a class action lawsuit against the largest private sales tax collection agent in the state.