Should Macon-Bibb raise taxes for local businesses?

Macon-Bibb County commissioners want to hear from business owners and community members about proposed changes to the county’s business occupation tax.

Georgia law requires that at least one public hearing be held to address concerns before a municipality increases the amount of money collected.

Currently Macon-Bibb charges an annual flat administrative fee of $65 per eligible business and $39 per full-time employee up to 250 employees, according to Commissioner Virgil Watkins.

Athens-Clark County adds a $50 administrative fee to its sliding scale for the occupational tax rate, according to its website. For instance, businesses with a total of three employees/owners pay up to $65.5 per person. If a business has at least 251 employees and owners, it pays about $16 per person for a capped total of $3,957 plus the $50 administrative fee.

Other communities in Georgia opt to tax a percentage of a company’s gross revenue.

Watkins, who chairs the Operations and Finance Committee, told commissioners last week that there is no state law capping the number of workers when levying the tax.

Increasing the number of employees taxed could boost the county’s general fund, he said.

Macon-Bibb is expected to encounter an additional $11 million in expenses in the Fiscal 2021 budget, according to information shared at a recent meeting with the local state legislative delegation.

An occupation tax differs from regulatory fees, which cannot be imposed to raise revenue but to offset costs a local government incurs to regulate business activity, according to the Georgia Municipal Association.

During last week’s committee meeting, commissioners expressed concerns that an increase in the occupation tax could deter new businesses from opening or cause existing large employers to consider moving.

A hearing on proposed changes will be held at Government Center Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m.

-Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Jarvis Fabian at [email protected] or call 478-301-2976.