Georgia lawmaker: New fee on wire transfers could raise $100 million

Legislation in Georgia that would charge a new fee for out-of-state money transfers — a service many immigrants and refugees use to support their families abroad — could raise an estimated $100 million in annual revenue for the state, the measure's sponsor told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Filed by Republican state Rep. Jeff Jones of Brunswick, House Bill 12 would institute a $10 fee on transfers of $500 or less, and a 2 percent charge on those that exceed $500. Those who pay the fee could seek reimbursement each year when they file their state income tax returns. Businesses would be exempted.

Noting he is waiting for an official report from the state about how much money his legislation could raise, Jones said: “I have tried to be very, very conservative. But independent estimates indicate that could generate $100 million to the state of Georgia.”

During his campaign, president-elect Donald Trump suggested threatening to cut off the flow of remittances sent to Mexico as a way to force that nation to pay for a new wall on the southwest border. Jones has called his measure “pre-Trump” and says it is not aimed at any particular group. Instead, he said, it targets the nation’s “massive underground — or shadow — economy, including drug dealers, human traffickers, gamblers and employees paid in cash.”

“The purpose of my bill is not to target any minority groups at all,” he said in an interview. “In fact, from my view the vast majority of Hispanics in the state of Georgia — really in the U.S. in total — are taxpaying citizens.”

“Really, it is just going after that underground economy,” he continued. “Nothing productive happens from that money in the state of Georgia. It merely just gets wired out of here.”

Jones’ legislation — he filed an early version in November and plans to introduce a new version soon — is among several Republican measures affecting immigrants and refugees that are expected to be debated in the legislative session starting Monday. Advocates for immigrants and refugees are girding for a fight.