What Is The Change?
The Ga 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 It 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 I Do About It?
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.