Category Archives: Government Waste

The ObamaPad


Saw this online and wanted to share with you. The Obamapad. If only people could see .  .  .

What a great analogy for the health care debate / Health Care reform / socialized medicine mess – or government waste. Feel free to pass along the link to your friends.

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If You STILL Can’t Get a Live Person at the GA Dept of Revenue


If you read my previous post on this subject “How To Get A Live Person at the GA Dept of Revenue”, you know that it is difficult, but it CAN be done. Also, in that article, I recommend the following initial steps:

  1. File Electronically
  2. Check for your refund on the website
  3. Check the Refund Inquiry Hotline (877) 423-6711 (both the online system and the phone system update their data once every day. It is unnecessary to continue to call these throughout the day, as the information will be the same.)

So, what do you do if you have exhausted all these resources? Don’t panic.

In my previous article, I gave instruction on what to say to the agents who answer the phones on the Hotline after you press “0”.

If these methods still do not get you the information you require, you do have some options.

  • You may call (404) 417-4480 – that’s a “backdoor” number that also rings into the main menu. You will undoubtedly have a long hold time, but you may be able to get an actual person to answer this phone. Be sure to get their name, direct number, and email address, if possible.
  • You can also call (404) 417-4490 – this is a real backdoor that gets you to the Registration and Licensing Call Center. From here, you can tell the agent you accidentally dialed the number wrong and ask them to transfer you to an EXAMINER in Income Tax (not in Refund Inquiry).
  • As a GA Taxpayer, you are entitled to speak to a live person. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights as revised in Dec 2009, ensures that you have the right to assistance from the Georgia Department of Revenue in complying with Georgia Tax Laws.
  • One of the offices you have access to is the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate.  The phone number for this office is (404) 417-2100. This number also reaches the office of the State Revenue Commissioner, Bart Graham. You will be unlikely to get him on the phone, but the staff in this office is very good at directing your calls to the correct resource to resolve your problem.
  • The email address for the Taxpayer Advocate is taxadv@dor.ga.gov

If you exhaust these methods and still have no answers, please contact us at Tax Traxx and ask for our assistance. We have assisted many taxpayers get a resolution from the GA Dept of Revenue.

Next: What If They Deny My Refund Claim?

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Filed under Georgia Government, Government Waste, Tax Issues

GA DOR Lowers Payment Threshold on GA Businesses


With House Bill 334, the Georgia Department of Revenue has changed Regulation: 560-3-2-.26 “Electronic Funds Transfer, Credit Card Payments, and Electronic Filing” that will have a dramatic effect on virtually all small businesses operating in Georgia.

The new rule lowers the threshold at which businesses must submit tax payments electronically. That threshold was $10,000 for all tax payments made prior to January 1, 2007. It has been $5,000 for all tax payments made after January 1, 2007; but, it gets progressively lower 2010 and 2011.

“Effective for tax periods beginning on or after January 1, 2010, the threshold will decrease

to $1,000. Therefore, any person or business with any single sales and use tax or
withholding tax payment that is greater than $1,000 will need to both file electronically and
remit their payment by EFT as well as for all future payments and filings.”

The threshold goes down to $500, beginning with payments due January 2011 or later.

What does this mean? It means that, going forward, business taxpayers will have to begin making electronic payments for Sales and Use Tax and Withholding Tax, if any of their tax payments are greater than $1,000 (beginning January 2010) or $500 (beginning January 2011). And, once you cross that threshold, you have to make ALL subsequent payments electronically, even if subsequent payments drop below the threshold.

This eliminates the notorious “float” of several weeks that it normally took the GA DOR to process checks. It eliminates filing early, but sending payments later. It gives the department access to your bank account.

What should you do to protect yourself as a small business person? I would recommend that you work with a tax preparer, who can offer filing services, and who can warehouse your payment until the very last possible day to process it, in order to avoid late payment penalties and interest. Remember, that in Georgia, you have until the 20th of the month to file the previous month’s Sales and Use tax return – but only until 3 PM on the 19th of the month to pay the amount due.

I’m a sales tax guy (my website is here), so I think in terms of Sales and Use tax, primarily, but the other tax types are in play as well. If the 20th falls on a weekend or holiday, you really only have until 3 PM on the Friday BEFORE the 20th to make your payment.

Most other states (and I file sales and use tax returns in 44 of them) allow the due date to slip back to the Monday or Tuesday AFTER the due date, if the due date falls on a weekend of holiday. Even those states whose due dates fall on the last day of the month allow the due date to slip to the Monday or Tuesday afterwards in this case. (I’m unsure why Georgia is the only state with this rule in place. But that’s a different article altogether.)

So, what happens if you fail to comply? The penalty is also spelled out in the new law:

Each failure to remit payment by EFT will result in the assessment of a 10% penalty of the payment due. An additional penalty equal to the greater of $25.00 or 5% of the entire tax due (before payments and credits) will be assessed for each return not submitted electronically.”

I’ll give credit to the policy makers at the Georgia Department of Revenue, though. They have finally carried through on a pledge that the State Revenue Commissioner made when he was appointed in 2003, to require as many taxpayers as possible to file and pay electronically.

Link to the House Bill 334

Link to my Website

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Filed under Georgia Government, Government Waste, Tax Issues

JSmith’s Email, The Response


If you’re reading this, I hope it’s because you read last night’s post about JSmith’s Nasy Email. If not, click here. We’ll wait.

One of the most important lessons I learned in my life as a “government insider” was the ability to answer correspondence of this kind of tone with patience and thoroughness. To illustrate, please see the abridged text of my response to my client’s employee’s husband (Oh, and don’t miss the constitutional history lesson!):

“Dear Mr. xxxxxx

“I have just received your email and wish to address your concerns. First, let me say how sorry I am that I have caused you such obvious alarm and concern. Having been in this business for some time, I perhaps take for granted that everyone understands the intricacies and peculiarities of alcohol law.

“Second, I am not an attorney, but an experienced consultant, who specializes in helping his clients navigate the processes of obtaining business and alcohol licenses in various municipal and state governments.  TaxTraxx (www.taxtraxx.com), is a company I started three years ago, after serving approximately eight years in numerous capacities at the Georgia Department of Revenue. My firm facilitates projects like this for a number of business across the southeast. To date, we have an excellent record of providing services to our clients and we work with individuals of many different nationalities. We also file Sales Tax returns for our clients in 44 of the 45 states that collect Sales and Use Tax (North Dakota is the only exception). On our website, you will see some case studies of services that we have provided for our clients.

‘In this case, my firm has been engaged by xxxxxx, whom I am copying on this message. xxxxxx specializes in the sale of convenience stores and other types of businesses. xxxxxx contracted my services for the purposes of securing business licenses and alcohol licenses for several xxxxxxxx stations in metro Atlanta that are being sold to independent owners.

 “The store where Mrs. xxxxxxx works, is being sold to xxxxxxx, which is 100% owned by a resident of xxxxxxx.  

“Because the new owner is not a resident of Georgia, the City of xxxxxxxx requires a United States Citizen who is a current employee of the business to be listed as “Registered Agent” for the purposes of securing the new alcohol license. The main purpose for a registered agent is to have a local (within Georgia) contact for process of service, or to send mail in the event that mail might be undeliverable to the business address. The current owner, xxxxxxxxx, and the new owner asked Mrs. xxxxxx if she would be willing to serve in this capacity on behalf of the xxxxxx. From experience, I know this to be a common practice among municipal governments – over the past three years, I have worked with more than 80 different municipalities in Georgia alone. In the city of xxxxxxx, this requirement is specifically governed by Section x-xx of the City Ordinance. On the state level, this requirement is governed by O.C.G.A 3-4-23.

“To answer your specific question about why we asked Mrs. xxxxxxxx for your information, I will direct you to the  Application for Sale of Distilled Spirits, Malt Beverages, and Wine .  Specifically, pp. 3, 6, 9 and 10 are those that Mrs. xxxxxx filled out with me today. Page 3 is the only place on the application that asks for spouse’s information. This information is requested for one purpose only – to provide proof that neither the applicant nor the applicant’s spouse are currently engaged in any other business(es) manufacturing, distributing or serving alcohol. As far as I am aware, none of these agencies are allowed to run credit checks. They are, however, allowed to run NCIC and GCIC criminal background checks, fingerprints, and to check that all tax returns have been filed and tax obligations paid to the relevant local and state governments.

“There is a great deal of legal history related to the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcohol in the United States. As you know, the manufacture, distribution and sale of alcohol was prohibited by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1922 and that prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1934. At the time that prohibition was lifted, the US Government went to great lengths to create a 3-tier system for the production, distribution and sale of alcohol in this country. Because of certain federal laws, still on the books, it is illegal to be a participant in more than one tier of the three-tier system at a given time (i.e. a person who owns a distillery cannot also own a distributorship or a retail establishment. Or, a person who owns a bar may not also manufacture distilled spirits.) There have been some very limited exceptions allowed under federal law, specifically wine tastings at vineyards and brewpubs, wherein malt beverages are both manufactured and sold at retail. However, these exceptions are tightly governed by other, equally stringent laws. (As a side note, both tobacco and motor fuel have similar 3-tier systems and laws in place.)

“To your point questioning the legality of inquiring about marital status, I believe you will find that this exclusion only applies to employment-related matters. Mrs. xxxxxx was neither being interviewed for a job, nor was she told that her job would be in jeopardy if she did not provide that information. As a general rule, it is not illegal to inquire about marital status.

‘Regarding your allegation that I would use your personal information for any benefit, I assure you that the only entities having access to your or your wife’s information will be the xxxxxx County Sheriff’s Department, the City of xxxxxxx and myself. I am keenly aware that this seems like an odd practice. Frankly, I’m surprised that in three years of private consulting, yours is the first protest of this kind that I have ever received.

“At this point, I do not have any of your personal information. I have submitted Mrs. xxxxxx’s information to the xxxxxx County Sheriff’s Office. The City of xxxxxx, though, will not accept this application, because it is incomplete without your information.

“In your message, you requested contact information for xxxxx Realty, which I am providing below:

xxxxxx

“My contact information follows in the signature.

“Mr. xxxxxx I applaud you for your concerns and for your candor. Again, I assure you that you have nothing to fear from me or from my associates regarding this application, your information or your wife’s information.

“I further hope that my response has given you a sample of the thoroughness I employ when completing a project and a feel for my experience level and discretion and that you will feel comfortable in asking any further questions you may have. The choice is yours and Mrs. xxxxxx’s, of course,  whether she continues as the Registered Agent on this application. If she decides to no longer be considered, the new owner will have to find someone else to fill this role. Regardless your decision, I wish you nothing but the best. Sincerely, P. Todd Kelly”

See? I gave him enough data and background information so that he could not object to my objections. I anticipated his follow up questions and answered them in this reply, mitigating his rejoinder. (Note: I don’t talk like that in real life.)

Let me know what you think. In part 3, I’ll share his response.

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Filed under Georgia Government, Government Waste, Tax Issues

JSmith’s Nasty Email


I don’t normally do this, but this was too interesting to miss. I’m going to share an email I received from the husband of an employee of one of my clients today. I believe he thinks I’m an identity theft.

I provide this as a public service to those who might be thinking that their email flames a lot.

“From: jsmithxxxx@xxxxx.com      (I don’t think that’s his real name.)

To: todd@taxtraxx.com
Todd Kelly,
 Why would you ask my wife about her marital status, want my name, drivers license, and social security number today, while discussing the change in ownership for the xxxxxxxx xx xxxxxxx with my wife?
  I am not an employee, nor have I proffered an application.
As you are aware, it is against the law to even ask about marital status,much less ask  very personal questions for which you have no legitimate purpose  and which serve no useful business purpose. 
Perhaps you thought because my wife is naturalised, her husband would not know US laws.I assure you that is not the case.I will legally protect my wife and my interests,and will not tolerate this egregious behavior, Mr Kelly. 
I will be checking to see if you have inquired about any of my personal information,sir, and will hold you legally accountable for any such actions.
 I want copies of everything you have regarding my wife and or myself immediately ,and complete (sic). I also want the name of the company(and principal) that hired you,as well as contact information for their legal council (sic).At this point I do not see a need to contact them, but will if things change.
If my wife suffers any  negative consequence as a  result of this, we will take legal action against you and the company that hired you.”  

So, some of you probably have received similar missives in response to just doing your job. Frankly, I used to get them all the time when I was a “government insider”. This is about the first one I’ve received in private life. And, in this case, I had a legitimate business reason for acquiring this gentleman’s information (his name, SSN and Driver’s License number), that being to complete a form his wife was filing to become a registered agent for a local alcohol license application in metro Atlanta, GA. It’s what I do almost every day. State and local law require that this information be on the form. I know it’s tasteless, but it’s the law.

Oh, and JSmith? It’s not his real name.

Thoughts anyone? I’d love to hear how you would respond.

In a separate post, I think I’ll share my response. Register now (top right corner) to be updated on this continuing saga.

Todd

BTW, I found the greatest marketing idea of all time – in a FREE book http://www.supertips.com/ultimate/x/?id=4781

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Filed under Georgia Government, Government Waste, Social Networking, Tax Issues

The Crisis Is In The Mail


I just enjoyed reading this very thorough article from CFO on the crisis at the US Postal Service and how their CFO believes that they can achieve profitability. Click Here to read the full article

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GA Unable to Account for 911 Fees


This morning, I nearly spit out my coffee after reading an article in the Macon (GA) Telegraph concerning the inability of the State of GA to audit prepaid cell companies operating in Georgia to account for 911 fees.

About two and a half years ago, the GA Legislature passed laws requiring that companies offering prepaid cellular service in Georgia pay  $1.50 per prepaid customer per month in 911 fees that the traditional cell phone consumers already pay as part of their contracts.

I understand from the Macon article, written by Travis Fain – tfain@macon.com, and visible here http://www.macon.com/local/story/905004.html, that the DCA (GA Dept of Community Affairs) is powerless to enforce these regulations. Furthermore, any kind of audit of these records is unfunded. This creates a hollow law, with no teeth, and makes the state look foolish, once again.

Fain quotes Clint Mueller, the legislative director of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), who says, ““There’s a lot of corporations that they’re (DCA) not collecting from. We don’t know how much (money) is getting left on the table.”

Says Fain, “The DCA was given power to collect the 911 fees, which were supposed to go into a pot that local 911 operations could tap for grants. That hasn’t happened, and instead the state has used the money to help fund its normal budget, which funds all sorts of state functions, such as public education and the Georgia State Patrol.”

GA Rep. John Lunsford, who sponsored the origianl bill and whom I know to be a reasonable legislator, says “The process is flawed. I think we need better accounting and we need to put some teeth in the laws. What I’d like to actually see is criminal penalties for failure to pay.” I’m with you Rep. Lunsford, but why didn’t we think of this in 2007?

“This is real money that actually belongs to the local taxpayers.” Lunsford said. He’s right in so many ways.

How much real money? Nobody knows. The DCS has collected $15.5 Million since 2007 from companies who HAVE been paying their share. What is unknown is the number of companies, representing an unknown number of consumers, who are not paying their share.

So, we have multiple problems here. First, we have cell phone companies who may not be obeying the law and may not be paying the required toll to support 911 services in Georgia. Second, we have no way to know the impact of these underpayments because the state cannot afford to conduct the audits. Third, we have created laws with no teeth. Fourth, we have a state agency who has little or no control over laws and regulations they are charged with enforcing. Fifth, we have a state budget process that is using collected funds, designated for a pool from which 911 Emergency Service agencies can tap for grant money, that the state is using to fund the General Operating Budget. Finally, we have no plan to fix this. 

Where have we seen this before? See my previous blog articles: “Protesting a 12-day Shutdown of State Gov Agency” http://wp.me/pxvZf-E and “Why I’m Not a Fan of Sales Tax Holidays” http://wp.me/pxvZf-h. So you northerners won’t think this is a southern problem, here’s where I rcently dinged Illinois’ stupid sales tax law changes http://wp.me/pxvZf-m.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Filed under Georgia Government, Government Waste, Tax Issues