Atlanta announces tax amnesty program for businesses

The city of Atlanta is kicking off a tax amnesty program Wednesday for businesses that have failed to pay the city’s piper.

The Atlanta Office of Revenue estimates roughly 1,500 people or businesses owe around $1.5 million for operating without a business licenses. Under the program offer, they will have six weeks to pay their licensing fees without interest and other penalties.

After the amnesty period ends on June 30, the city will turn to a collections agency and levy fines to recoup the funds.

Gwendolyn Smith, Atlanta’s deputy chief financial officer, said the program is designed to help and educate businesses that may be unaware of their tax responsibilities.

“This is something we’re doing to help the small business owner know that this is the process, without going into aggressive collections,” she said, adding that the city cannot seek more than four years of back taxes. “We’re really trying to help at this point.”

Unlicensed business owners were identified through the city’s Office of Revenue data intelligence program, which matches internal billing records to external records, such as state and county databases. Atlanta officials follow up with letters to the businesses to determine if they are in compliance. The city last sponsored this amnesty program in 2008, they said.

City officials said unlicensed companies are a small percentage — just under 7 percent — of the more than 22,000 businesses operating in Atlanta. Chief Revenue Officer Gary Donaldson and Smith said the most common business owners identified through the program are independent contractors and home-based businesses such as barbers or hair stylists.

Business owners with questions about the amnesty program or business licensing may contact the Atlanta Office of Revenue at 404-330-6270 or visit www.atlantaga.gov and click on “doing business.”

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