Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Let Me Tell You 'Bout the Loophole and the Bees; Beekeepers Are Just Some Who Can Benefit from Odd Tax Exemptions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Let Me Tell You 'Bout the Loophole and the Bees; Beekeepers Are Just Some Who Can Benefit from Odd Tax Exemptions

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

ATLANTA -- If you're a beekeeper, you might be in luck.

Some of your sugar could be sales-tax free. Even if you don't know it.

"I didn't know there was a way you could do it," said Jim Obvey, a beekeeper who says he's more of a hobbyist than a big-time commercial beekeeping outfit.

It's all because of an obscure part of Georgia law that removes the sales tax on "the sale of sugar used as food for honeybees kept for the commercial production of honey, beeswax, and honeybees," as long as the state's revenue commissioner says it's OK.

(In case you're wondering why a beekeeper would need much sugar, it can be an important resource in keeping hungry bees alive during the winter.)

Welcome to the 9,000-word list of exemptions from Georgia's sales taxes, a roll call that now includes more than 100 items, from the bees' sugar to hearing aids. There are exemptions for all kinds of farming equipment, gold and silver bullion and the Bible.

Last year, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, estimated the exemptions cost the state more than $725 million a year in revenue.

There are also the always-popular sales-tax holidays on school supplies and energy-efficient appliances.

Now, some lawmakers and think tanks are looking at scrapping the exemptions, or at least some of them, in hopes of advancing other goals. Progressive think tank the Center for a Better South would like to see the exemptions pitched overboard as part of a plan for creating what the organization says would be a fairer tax structure.

Some Republicans are taking a look at the exemptions as part of broader tax-reform efforts that could eventually include tax relief in other areas balanced by repealing some of the exemptions.

"The truth of the matter is, tax exemptions are just a redistribution of taxes," said Rep. Larry O'Neal, R-Warner Robins, chairman of a House panel studying the state's tax system.

Or, as the Center for a Better South puts it, the main problem with the exemptions is that everyone else ends up paying for them through a higher sales tax or other government charges. …

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