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November 29, 2021

MAC Files Amicus Brief in T-Mobile High-Tech Exemption Case

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Earlier this month, the Metro Atlanta Chamber filed an amicus brief urging the Georgia Court of Appeals to reverse a Fulton Superior Court decision that equipment purchased by T-Mobile South for its broadband 4G LTE network did not qualify for Georgia’s high-tech exemption from state sales-and-use taxes.

The superior court had ruled that the equipment was “telephone central office equipment or other voice data transport technology” capable of permitting voice calls rather than “computer equipment” and therefore was ineligible for the high-tech exemption.

The superior court had reversed a prior decision from the Georgia Tax Tribunal, which had found that T-Mobile’s LTE network was built from computer equipment and that T-Mobile should receive a $11.4 million tax refund for 2012 through 2016.

To qualify for the high-tech exemption, a company must spend at least $15 million on “computer equipment” in a calendar year.

In its amicus brief, the Metro Atlanta Chamber said that the superior court had misunderstood the high-tech exemption, OCGA § 48-8-3(68), which was established to encourage investment in the state’s technology infrastructure. The Metro Atlanta Chamber specifically argued that the superior court’s erroneous understanding of the high-tech exemption would disqualify investments in practically all modern computer technology and could undermine the effectiveness of other tax incentives adopted by the General Assembly to promote economic development. As explained in the brief, “for investors to rely on our tax laws, they must have confidence that the laws will be understood reasonably and applied predictably by the Department of Revenue and the courts.”

 The Metro Atlanta Chamber further argued that the superior court erred in considering the recent amendment to the high-tech exemption, OCGA § 48-8-3(68), which clarified that, as of July 1, 2021, wireless voice systems do not qualify for the exemption.

Former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell and Lee Deneen of Alston & Bird LLP represented the Metro Atlanta Chamber in this matter.

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