For the second time in three months, Oconee County government and Oconee County schools got a pleasant surprise with the release last week of monthly sale tax distributions by the Georgia Department of Revenue.
Revenue was up 41 percent in October over the same month a year ago for the county’s Local Option Sales Tax, Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and Education Local Option Sales Tax.
The distributions on Nov. 30 were for sales tax collections in October, and for each of the taxes more than $200,000 in additional revenue was collected over October of last year. The exact figures were $223,160 for LOST, $254,495 for SPLOST, and $254,416 for ELOST.
This follows seven months in which tax revenue were off on average more than 5.9 percent from a year ago. September revenue was 5.1 percent lower than in September of 2019.
The August loss of more that 5.0 percent was offset by a bonanza of $413,325 in LOST revenues and $468,516 in SPLOST and ELOST revenues that were discovered via a statewide audit of “a very large company” that was erroneously coding all of its sales tax revenue to the state.
The October extra revenue was not flagged as the result of an audit by the Department of Revenue.
Justin Kirouac, Oconee County administrator, said he asked the Department of Revenue for an explanation and was told that “about 12 companies” submitted sales taxes that were “significantly different” from their receipts sometime between March and September.
These discrepancies were “automatically flagged by DOR system until they could be reconciled,” Kirouac said he was told.
Clarke Had Smaller Gain
When the August distributions were released, Kirouac said that he expected most counties in the state that collected sales tax benefitted.
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At that time, Clarke County picked up more than $1 million in LOST, SPLOST and ELOST revenue.
With the October distributions, however, Clarke County added much less than did Oconee.
Clarke County added $89,919 in LOST, $92,563 in SPLOST, and $87,425 in ELOST over October of a year ago. (The three taxes are all for 1 percent, but they have different exemptions.)
Clarke County’s revenues from sales taxes are much greater than are Oconee’s. Clarke County collected $2.4 million in SPLOST in October, compared with Oconee’s $0.9 million.
So the percentage gain in Clarke in October over last October was only about 4 percent.
Clarke County also had a positive month—with a growth of about 3 percent—in June, but Oconee County that month reported a loss of 0.3 percent that month over a year earlier.
When the sale tax revenues for August were distributed, it was possible to see what the collections would have been without the audit because the supplemental funds were labeled as the result of the audit. That isn’t the case with the November 30 distribution.
“DOR isn't exactly forthcoming with their processes,” Kirouac said. “I would take it that taxes remitted didn't match receipts and that an auditor adjusted the number.
“Almost all of what we are seeing appear to be some sort of coding issue between the store(s) and DOR,” Kirouac said.
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