Oconee County, as well as Clarke County, got amazingly good news with the release of the sales tax distributions for August.
With the addition of revenue from an audit that spanned several years of an unidentified company, sales tax distributions for August increased by two-thirds over a year ago for Oconee County and for Oconee County Schools.
In Clarke County, the increase in sales tax revenue from August of last year was more than 40 percent for the unified city-county government and for the county’s schools.
The audit added about a half million in revenues for each of Oconee County’s sales taxes, and Oconee County now has a 6 percent growth in sales tax revenue in the first eight months of 2012. Without the audit, the county would have been down 3 percent in revenue over a year ago.
The situation is the same for Oconee County Schools.
In Clarke County, the increase of more than $1 million in revenue from the audit has converted a just less than 4 percent loss into a more than 2 percent gain, both for the unified government and for the county’s schools.
Justin Kirouac, Oconee County administrator, said is not possible to know what impact the audit will have on county revenues in the future, but “It SHOULD be safe to say that the anticipated monthly returns will be higher going forward.”
Very Large Company
Kirouac said in an email message on Monday morning that “We have been told that there was a state-wide audit that spanned several years on a very large company that indicated they were erroneously coding all of their sales taxes to the state level rather than the appropriate percentage to the county.
|Click To Enlarge|
“This is a one-time reconciliation based on the audit and almost every county has something similar,” Kirouac said. “No additional information was provided.”
In a follow-up email, Kirouac said “I'll be interested to see what the effect of a properly coded return has on the monthly reports going forward--presumably it should have a degree of significance.”
Sales tax distributions are released by the Georgia Department of Revenue at the end of each month, showing the revenue from the taxes collected the previous month. So the Sept. 30 distribution was for August.
I have downloaded sales tax revenue many times over the years and have been tracking them since the beginning of the year to watch for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy.
I did not download the Sept. 30 figures until Saturday, when I noticed the huge increase in revenue. I have never seen anything of this magnitude from an audit.
I asked Kirouac for help in understanding the figures.
Oconee County Changes
For Oconee County the September distributions showed a 66.0 percent increase over August of 2019 for the Local Option Sales Tax, a 66.8 percent increase for the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and a 66.7 percent increase for the county’s Education Local Option Sales Tax.
Each tax is 1 percent of sales, but they cover different items and produce different results each month, with LOST having more exemptions and thus producing less revenue.
Distributions vary seasonally, and the monthly figures include returns for the previous month plus additions resulting from audits. Generally, the additions from the audits are relatively small.
On Sept. 30, the audit added $413,325 in LOST revenue for August in Oconee County, $468,516 in SPLOST revenue, and $468,516 in ELOST revenue.
If the audit revenue had not been included in the August figures, LOST would have declined by 5.5 percent over August of last year, SPLOST would have declined by 5.1 percent, and ELOST by 5.0 percent.
This would have been the sixth month is a row with lower revenue from one month compared with a year earlier.
Clarke County Changes
For Clarke County, the September distributions showed a 43.4 percent increase in LOST over August of 2019, a 43.6 percent increase in SPLOST revenues over a year earlier, and a 42.6 percent increase in ELOST revenues from August of 2019.
On Sept. 30, the audit added $1,036,141 in LOST revenue for August, $1,047,348 in SPLOST revenue, and $1,047,348 in ELOST revenue.
If the audit revenue had not been included in the August figures, LOST would have declined by 3.3 percent over August of last year, SPLOST would have declined by 3.2 percent, and ELOST by 3.6 percent.
Clarke County sales tax revenues were higher in June of 2020 than in June of 2019, but with that exception, sales tax revenues have been lower in 2010 than in the same month a year earlier.
In both Clarke and Oconee counties, revenues had increased in January and February and dropped sharply in March and April as the pandemic developed and the resultant shut down in the commercial activity took effect.
The drops have been more moderate since May.
Athens-Clarke County also has a transportation sales tax, which I have not included here. Oconee does not have such a tax.