Tag Archives: Bart Graham

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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How to Get A Live Person at the GA Department of Revenue

It’s that time of year again folks, and if you live in Georgia, that means another wait for your tax refund check from the Georgia Department of Revenue. As a former “insider” I am frequently asked, “How can I get in touch with a live person at the Georgia Department of Revneue?”

If you happen to be one of the several hundred thousand individual taxpayers calling about a tax refund for this, or any prior year, it’s not that easy to actually get a live person. But, it can be done. Here’s how:

  • File electronically. Statistically, you have a better shot at getting your refund faster if you file electronically, and especially if you elect for direct deposit.
  • If you haven’t received your refund within two to three weeks (filing electronically) or six to eight weeks (filing a paper return), then you should begin by going to this website https://etax.dor.ga.gov/WMRefund/index.aspx and searching there. Don’t worry, it’s safe and secure and actually works in most cases. You’ll be asked some identification info – your SSN without dashes, and the whole dollar amount of your expected refund.
  • If this doesn’t work, then there’s no need to call the Refund Inquiry Hotline (877) 423-6711, because it has the EXACT SAME INFORMATION, but if you do, press 2 and you will be taken to the exact same computer system as the website in the previous bullet point.
  • If you must call, do so early in the morning. The Automated Caller Distribution System switches from the night message (which says they’re closed and gives you the hours of operation) to Active status at about 7:30. If you call at exactly the right time, you can be among the first in line. Then the callers will back up behind YOU, because they don’t read my blog. Later in the day, it is not unusual to experience an hour or more hold time. Frequently, a call to this number returns a fast busy, which means that the system is overloaded with calls and cannot take another one. If you get this, wait 10 minutes and call back, or wait until early the next morning.
  • The Refund Inquiry System is on the main income tax number (Press 2) and it will ask you for your SSN and expected refund amount.
  • If you receive a response like “we do not have a record of your return” or something to that effect, don’t send in another copy. They probably have your return somewhere. If you mailed a paper return, shame on you. If you filed electronically and they say they don’t have it – then you may have a problem.
  • If everything is correct on your return and the name and address information matches what is in the Department’s files from previous years, then you should hear a message like, “Your refund should be deposited into your account on __/__/2010,” or, “Your refund check will be mailed by __/__/2010.” These dates are pretty accurate if you get to this point, because if they have assigned a “check date” to your refund, then it’s approved and they really will mail it or deposit it when they say they will. The Department prints checks and does direct deposits frequently throughout the week and they are pretty good at getting the COMPLETED refunds out the door. Commissioner Graham has a pretty decent record on this during his term.
  • At every menu level in the Department’s phone system, you should be able to click through to a live person by hitting the “0” or “#” key to get to a live operator.
  • When you do get a live person, please be nice. Don’t tell them how long you have been on hold. They know. They’re sorry. It’s not their fault. Trust me on this. Comments like these waste your time and theirs. Just avoid those kinds of comment, and you will be met with a much nicer person on the other end. These examiners take as many as 500 calls per day apiece, with about a second and a half in between, and everyone has been on hold and most of them complain about it, as though the examiner somehow wasn’t aware of this.
  • Bear in mind that the “operator” you will get at this level is likely a seasonal employee (we used to call them Temporary Tax Examiners), with just enough training to answer some basic questions about your refund, but not necessarily trained to talk to you about your whole tax return at all.
  • The GADOR is crippled by a number of old computer systems (some from the  1980’s) that do not “talk” to each other. This necessitates Tax Examiners having to toggle between various systems to answer a single question about a specific taxpayer. The Refund Inquiry operators may or may not have access to any other system, so any kind of examination takes a long while.
  • If you have a question about your return, or if the system tells the Examiner that your return is in some type of “Review Status”, then you will need to speak to a higher level Tax Examiner.
  • Likely, these higher level examiners are already speaking with someone else, so you will be placed on hold again. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to get a Refund Examiners to transfer you to a specific Tax Examiner, but it’s worth asking.
  • When you are transferred to a live person, try to get them to give you their direct phone number if you want to call back for further information or questions. Almost every employee at the GA DOR has a direct line (and usually a group fax #). Try to get both of these if possible. In my experience, the examiners are more likely to answer a direct call than one routed to them via the Automated Caller Distribution system.
  • Also, try to get the correct spelling of both the first and last name of the employee. Departmental policy changes from year to year, but typically, they are only required to give you their employee ID, but most of the employees will give you their first and last names when requested.
  • Armed with first and last names, the nomenclature for the emails at the DOR is simple: firstname.lastname@dor.ga.gov . So, if you can get the examiner’s first and last name, you can at least email them any future questions.
  • Finally, if you are still unable to get through, there are some backdoor tricks that I have found to be effective. I will be posting about some of these over the next few days, so please subscribe to this blog (in the top right corner of this page) and I’ll let you know when there is an update.

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It’s That Time of Year Again – Happy (Sales Tax) Holidays!!!

Now is the time that the masses, suffering under the yoke of the various state tax systems around the country, yearning from relief from their 6, 7, or, heaven forbid, 8% burdens, go full force into the malls, free from taxation without reservation. The Georgia Department of Revenue reminds us that Georgia’s annual Sales Tax holiday starts today, July 30 and lasts all weekend, through Sunday, August 2.

It’s been a number of years that Georgia and a bunch of other states have jumped on the Sales Tax holiday bandwagon and I’ve never been a much of a fan.

Want to know why?

As a former “government insider”, I think the concept is a little bit deceptive. The ads tout big savings on items you buy during the holiday. However, if you think about it, the savings are minimal. Consider that purchasing $100 worth of exempt merchandise saves you only $7 in most of Georgia’s counties. Whoopee.

I ventured out this morning, looking for new pants, and was frustrated at the crowds and the mess. Frankly, I’d rather give the state my $7 and let them hash it out.

Don’t get me wrong, the savings on an eligible computer system (up to $1,500) would save you $105 in Sales Tax. That’s worth it. Although you could order a computer online and still qualify for the sales tax holiday without having to fight the crowds.

There are also some quirky “gotchas”. For example, according to the Dept of Revenue’s FAQ page, if you go online and buy a pair of pants that costs $95, but shipping costs an additional $10, you’d have to pay tax on $105. The pants are no longer eligible because the TOTAL of the item plus shipping exceeds the $100 threshold. On the other hand, if you drive over to the mall and purchase the pants for $95, then the pair of pants is an eligible purchase. You’d probably be using ten dollars worth of gas to get there and back, while polluting Georgia’s air. Like I said, “Quirky.”

Next, the holiday makes bookkeeping difficult for some of my clients. Most of my clients aren’t affected because they either don’t sell any eligible products, or they are not in the retail business to begin with. For those who are, tracking eligible products versus non-exempt products and trying to reprogram their point of sale system means an additional couple hours of work on their part and a couple hours of extra work on my part to get their sales tax return completed.

Finally, the impact to the state budget, while not enormous, is, at the very least, significant. It’s hard to find an exact total, and those that you can find, don’t seem to agree. But, it appears that the annual impact to state and local governments in Georgia is in a neighborhood just north of $3.5 Million. This is money that has to be replaced in some way, despite the sharp decline in state revenues and massive cuts in operations statewide.

In a future article, I’ll suggest ways to make this revenue up – not by increasing taxes elsewhere, but by eliminating some wasteful State programs. Somebody remind me to tell you about the “Umbrella Guys”. OK?

For more information on the Georgia sales tax holiday, and for lists of eligible items, click here:


Here’s a link to a table showing all the states currently offering Sales Tax Holidays:

http://budurl.com/gbfy (Courtesy of Federation of Tax Administrators)

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Georgia Changing Filing Requirements on Sales and Use Tax

The Georgia Department of Revenue has proposed a change to Regulation: 560-3-2-.26 “Electronic Funds Transfer, Credit Card Payments, and Electronic Filing” that, if approved, will have a dramatic effect on virtually all small businesses operating in Georgia.

The essence of the proposed 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 over the next two calendar years.

Here’s the change. “Beginning January 1, 2010, all taxpayers owing more than $1,000 in connection with any return, report, or other document pertaining to sales tax, use tax, withholding tax, or motor fuel distributor tax . . . shall pay any such . . . tax . . . or liability and all future payments to the state by electronic funds transfer using the ACH debit or credit method even if some payments for those tax types subsequently fall below $1,000.”

Oh, and 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 of all tax types, 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.

This eliminates the notorious “float” of several weeks that it normally takes the GA DOR to process checks. It removes flexibility in 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, 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 45 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 still unsure as to why Georgia is the only state that I am aware of with this rule in place, other than to speed up receipt of funds.

Under the current system, if you file a sales tax return in Georgia and mail it on the 20th, you can almost certainly count on two to three weeks “float” time before you check is processed. I track the checks I mail for my clients monthly, and find this to be pretty accurate. Under the new system, this all goes away.

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, that being to require as many taxpayers as possible to file and pay electronically.

The comment period for this rule change is open until 10:00 AM, August 7, 2009. All comments should be directed to Commissioner Bart L. Graham, Georgia Department of Revenue, Suite 15200, 1800 Century Blvd, Atlanta, GA 30345.

Link to the entire rule change: http://budurl.com/GADORRuleChange

Link to my Website: http://www.taxtraxx.com

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