Georgia tax officials say the pledge of allegiance during the Georgia Association of Tax Officials Conference on May 6, 2019, at the Classic Center in Athens. A closely guarded provision of Georgia law allows county tax commissioners in Georgia to earn thousands of dollars in fees for collecting city taxes, on top of their county salaries. CHRISTINA R. MATACOTTA / CMATACOTTA@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

At least 48 Georgia tax commissioners boost salaries through fees

For decades, Georgia elected tax commissioners have subsidized their salaries through a fee system, which is largely unregulated.

Under the fee system, county tax commissioners receive personal payments for collecting the taxes of cities in their counties. That’s allowed dozens of commissioners to charge cities thousands of dollars for this service. Much of this money is undisclosed to taxpayers. 

Georgia law allows these contractual agreements and personal payments. However, no state bordering Georgia allows tax officials to pocket the fees; the payments go to the county government instead.

Georgia law regulates the compensation counties receive for collecting city taxes, but there are no limits on how much tax commissioners can receive from the cities. 

Georgia News Lab student journalists surveyed 159 counties and found at least 48 county tax commissioners who benefit from this system, indicated on the map below. 

Blue colored counties represent commissioners who collect city taxes and receive fees. Orange colored counties represent commissioners who are about to earn fees for collecting city taxes. Red colored counties represent commissioners who formerly earned fees for collecting city taxes. 

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