Toccoa Continues Occupation Tax Ordinance Discussion

Toccoa City Commissioners continue to discuss the city’s occupation tax ordinance.

City commissioners discussed proposed changes to the ordinance at a work session on Monday.

During Monday’s work session, the city commission discussed a number of different topics related to the ordinance.

One of those was reporting of a business’s gross receipts.

The city of Toccoa uses a business’s gross receipts as part of determining the occupation tax for a business for the next year.

Some city commissioners noted that Toccoa is the only city among a group including places like Lavonia, Hartwell, Royston, Clarkesville, and Gainesville that uses gross receipts to determine occupation tax. Those municipalities all base it on the number of employees a business has, according to information provided by city officials.

Toccoa City Manager Mike Jackson said he feels gross receipts is a fair way to do it, provided businesses are providing accurate information about that figure.

City Commissioner Terry Carter said an effort to audit businesses to verify that number could help with that.

“If we had an audit program and people were fearful that they may get audited, that is how you get people to be honest with their numbers,” said Carter.

Toccoa City Attorney John Dickerson said that the proposed update to the occupation tax ordinance does not mandate that a business provide any additional documentation to verify gross receipts, but does allow the city to ask any business for such additional documentation to verify those gross receipts.

Toccoa Vice-Mayor Andy Pavliscsak noted that the city has that authority now and does not do such audits.

Jackson said that could be changed by hiring a company to do those audits and paying them a percentage of any additional occupation tax revenue collected by the city as a result of audits finding under-reporting of gross revenues.

“How is that conducive to encouraging growth and business in our city?” asked Pavliscsak.

Jackson said it is a matter of fairness, which would be good for all businesses.

“What we have is an unlevel playing field for some businesses because some businesses are willing to lie to us,” said Jackson. “Let’s just put it straight. They are willing to lie to us. I would like to see a level playing field.”

City commissioners also discussed the occupation tax for professional businesses such as lawyers and doctors and are considering raising the occupation tax for those businesses from $175 to $200, noting that the $175 amount has remained unchanged since the 1980s. Along with that, city commissioners discussed transient and non-permanent businesses and clarifying the definitions of those and accompanying occupation tax requirements.

The ordinance will be discussed further at a later date after staff incorporate input from the work session.