Georgia taxpayers are currently faced with an uneven playing field when challenging tax assessments or refund denials. This year State Rep. Todd Jones (R-South Forsyth) introduced House Bill 538 to address this question of fairness in Georgia state tax disputes and to fulfill the mission of the Georgia Tax Tribunal which was established by the General Assembly in 2012. Currently, the Tax Tribunal is required to defer to the Department of Revenue’s interpretations of ambiguous tax statutes and regulations because of Georgia’s adoption of this judicial doctrine stemming from a U.S Supreme Court decision.
Passage of HB 538 is the commonsense next step in establishing fairness and increasing public confidence in the state’s tax system. It will allow the Tax Tribunal to fulfill its purpose as an independent and autonomous division within the Office of State Administrative Hearings. Other states including Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin and Mississippi have already acted to eliminate agency deference and HB 538 would further enhance Georgia’s status as a fair and equitable place to live and do business. Ending agency deference in tax controversies in Georgia is not just the right thing to do from a legal standpoint, but also from an economic development and fairness perspective. The Metro Atlanta Chamber looks forward to supporting the efforts of Rep. Jones to send HB 538 to the Governor’s desk in the 2020 legislative session.