Tag Archives: Dept of Revenue

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

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:


“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.


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

Remembering a Personal 9-11

I’ve been reading all day about remembrances of September 11, 2001. That got me to doing some reminiscing of my own. Everyone has a story. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing. Here’s mine.

At the time, I was the project manager on a massive government relocation program. We were moving about 1,200 state employees from the GA Dept of Revenue off of Capitol Hill in Atlanta out to an outlying location about 10 miles from the Capitol. Every Tuesday morning at 7 am, we had a project status meeting with the department heads. There were about 20 people in each of these meetings.

I was temporarily housed in the new building and we were having the first of these weekly meetings there. Our IT department had already moved and I was occupying a cubicle on their floor.

The meeting broke up and I returned to my temporary cubicle to answer a call from my wife. Because she was a teacher, and two months pregnant at the time, I was disturbed to receive a call from her at that hour – wondered why she wasn’t at school. The news she had for me was shocking. As I listened to her telling me what was happening, I looked across the way and saw a group of middle eastern programmers watching a video on their computer screen of smoke coming out of the side of the WTC and speaking loudly in a language I obviously couldn’t understand. But it got worse.

I immediately left for the day. Not because of what was happening in NYC, but because the news my wife told me on the phone was much more personal. She was losing our baby.

I imediately raced home (12.8 miles – a short commute by Atlanta standards) and held her as she writhed in pain. Together, we saw the North Tower collapse.

Jean and I had been married for two and a half years by that time. We honeymooned for 10 days in NYC and had visited there again just a few months prior for our “once in a lifetime” experience of standing in 18 degree weather watching Dick Clark from about 60 feet away in Times Square. On that trip, we had shopped in the mall below the WTC, I vividly remember the girl who helped us at the Coach Store. We bought clothes at Century 21 across the street, and toured the little church and cemetery down the block. New York was our adopted vacationland. We had even considered moving there, and I had gone on several interviews there before the job with the State of GA came along.

So, my reminiscence of 9-11 involves some deeply personal stuff. We didn’t lose any loved ones in the attacks that day, but I couldn’t (and still can’t) get it out of my head wondering how many people we had seen on that trip who may have been killed that day. How many of them were instantly disintegrated? How many of those that we said “Hi” to, as crazy southerner tourists? How many were just GONE? 

But we had one of our most intimate experiences as a family that day. We cried a lot and prayed a lot that day and in the days to come. Mercifully, God had a plan for us that we did not understand at that time. We stayed in Atlanta. Our daughter was born almost exactly 10 months later. And we have had so many blessings since that time, I can’t name them all. I will mention that the best news out of that day was that my college roommate’s daughter was born that day. Easy to remember her birthday.

But the horror we felt as we watched all those years ago . . .  is ingrained in our psyche. We still feel it to this day. We will never forget.


Filed under Christianity, Georgia Government, Uncategorized

Illinois Announces (Really Weird) Sales Tax Changes

As a tax practitioner who files Sales and Use tax returns in 45 states, I’m on all the mailing lists for each state and get notices when the state (and sometimes local) tax lawas are about to change. One such notice came in the other day and I felt compelled to share with the blogosphere.

I just received a notice from the Illinois Department of Revenue announcing some really bizarre changes to their sales tax laws that will take effect September 1st. (Disclosure: I have clients for whom we file Sales and Use Tax returns in Illinois, but their business has nothing to do with the items listed here – I just thought these were silly and wanted to pass them a long!)

First up, is the change to the tax on candy. Yes. The Illinois Candy Tax. According to the notice I received, the new Sales Tax form (ST-1) will include a separate line item for candy. So, now, candy must be taxed at the general tax rate, which varied depending on whether you are an out-of-state vendor, or based on location if you are an in-state vendor. But, lest you get confused as to the definition of “candy”, Illinois clarifies this for you.

The following items are considered candy by the Illinois Department of Revenue:
chocolate bars, yogurt or chocolate covered nuts or fruit, honey coated nuts, caramel popcorn, lollipops, snack mixes containing yogurt of chocolate, breath mints (thank goodness), and gum. Nothing wrong yet.

Like every good (open to interpretation) government program, there are of course exceptions to the “what is considered candy rule” and Illinois DOR tells us that chocolate covered cookies, yogurt covered pretzels, “candy” that contains flour, plain dried fruits and nuts with no added sweeteners are NOT candy and, therefore, are taxed at the lower “food” rate.

As a guide to help consumers and retailers to make sure that they have not violated this rule, the Illinois DOR
provides a helpful rule of thumb. They say, “You must check the ingredients label or package. If an item contains flour or requires refrigeration, it remains taxed as food (low rate). If an item contains sugar, it is taxed as general merchandise (high rate).”

There are similar clarifications on soft drinks and which soft drinks qualify for the lower rate (food) and which are taxed at the higher rate (general). Basically, the determination is the same – if you look at the label and see that the soft drink contains milk or juice without sweeteners (whether sugar or artificial), it is taxed at the lower rate (food). Otherwise, it is taxed at the higher, general, rate. And don’t forget the special Chicago Soft Drink Tax – it’s also clearly defined.

Here’s the actual notice I received from Illinois: http://tax.illinois.gov/Publications/Bulletins/2010/FY-2010-01.PDF so you can see I’m not making this up.

Silly, silly, silly. As a former “insider” in another state department of revenue – not Illinois, I can just imagine the ridiculous amount of time wasted on developing these rules.

First, I can imagine the legislators considering the hoary problem of the “Candy Tax Loophole” and spending valuable floor time debating it.

Then, I can imagine their staffers calling frantically to the Illinois Dept of Revenue asking for face time with Commissioner Brian Hamer, or one of his staffers. Because goverment policy makers are often fresh-out-of-college compassionbots, I just can imagine the flavor of that meeting. “Gentlepeople, we have a serious problem with the Illinois tax code. We need your help to strengthen our language. In the development of the regs, legislative intent was to clearly define that chocolate covered pretzels should get a tax break but that chocolate covered nuts should not. The citizens of Illinois are dying from eating Goobers and Raisinettes. We HAVE to get them eating chocolate covered pretzels, immediately. OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT!!”

Oh . . . my . . . stars. Those meetings really are that bad. I’ve sat in dozens of them.

Not to mention the 2 cents difference in the tax on the two different items. Let’s analyze what’s going on here. Supposed that in the entire state of Illinois, during the course of a year, consumers purchase a hundred million soft drink cans at roughly a dollar apiece. If the difference in the tax rate is 2 cents, consumers will be paying into the Illinois Treasury approximately $2 million in additional tax – just on soft drinks. Sounds like a lot of money doesn’t it? I assure you that an enormous amount of that additional revenue was consumed by the state in trying to apply the law change. For example, in the meeting I described above, there were probably 20-25 state employees involved over several hours worth of meetings. Then there was time involved in drafting the new regulations, developing the methodology for advertising the changes, distributing my mail to who-knows-how-many tax preparers like myself. Then, computer systems changes were required. Add to that developing and printing of the new forms, getting approvals at every step of the way and final signoffs by Commissioner Hamer and his team, and all of a sudden, two million bucks – POOF!!

Now, let’s say it’s NOT a hundred million cans, but a BILLION cans and $20 Million in new taxes. Now, you’re talking about a tax increase that an Illinois politician can sink some teeth into, like a Snickers bar (high tax).

Here’s the link to the actual notice I received from Illinois. http://tax.illinois.gov/Publications/Bulletins/2010/FY-2010-01.PDF See if I’m not telling you the truth about this. They’re serious.

In future articles, I’ll pass along some of the dumbest meetings I ever sat in. And, I’ll talk about some of the dumbest people I ever fired (names will be changed to protect the innocent). When I watched Dragnet when I was a little kid, I thought they said at the end “Names have been changed to protect the idiots.”


Filed under Government Waste, Tax Issues

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

Follow me on Twitter! http://www.twitter.com/taxtraxx

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