GCN joins the Georgia Food Bank Association to defend nonprofit tax exemptions
Last Monday, Governor Deal and his appointed Georgia Competitiveness Initiative taskforce (of questionable validity) convened on Georgia Tech’s campus to discuss state tax provisions. Their goal: “to enhance the State's economic development strategy” through the adoption or phasing out of specific tax provisions.
After the Governor’s keynote address, it was up to leaders of various industries – food banks, film, music, and video gaming – to testify in defense of their current exemptions and/or justify the need for additional provisions.
Bill Bolling, founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, expressed the need to reinstate three particular sales and use tax exemptions:
- for purchases by food banks to supplement donated goods with more nutritious items;
- for donations of prepared food to food banks for hunger relief; and
- for donations of prepared food for natural disaster relief efforts
The Georgia Center for Nonprofits provided additional testimony, discussing the food banks and expanding the conversation to broader nonprofit tax-related issues:
- sales and use exemptions for the purchase of supplies by Federally Qualified Health Centers and nonprofit volunteer health clinics; and
- exemptions for sales to qualified job training programs
Each of the above provisions expired in 2010. And not until this year did the ongoing advocacy efforts finally get the items passed again. But, despite an aggregate House and Senate vote of 224-4 in favor of the bill (HB 193), it was vetoed by Gov. Deal in March.
In his veto statement, Deal quoted the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians writing, "that all nongovernment and nonbusiness input exemptions sunset so that the Legislature may determine if economic or non-economic justifications exist for renewing these exemptions." But this is exactly what the legislature did when it nearly unanimously passed the provisions. In the same statement, the Governor passed the buck to the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative task force (an arm of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce) for further review.
Significantly, Monday’s testimony prompted Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Chamber, to declare their full support for the exemptions. This unexpected public statement from the task force will make it difficult for the Governor to justify another vetoing of these provisions. Thus, if the above exemptions are again supported by the General Assembly (we’ll need your help!), we’ll see major burdens lifted from nonprofits, providing more funding for the individuals and communities whom they serve.
This is a win for Georgia nonprofits! There has only been one exemption renewed for nonprofits since 2009. With this new support, a window may be opening for increased nonprofit tax exemptions statewide.
Thank you, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Georgia Food Bank Association, Georgia Restaurant Association, Georgia Goodwill Association, and all others who attended in support of Georgia’s food banks and nonprofit industry.
Tommy Pearce is Communications Coordinator at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.