Most eligible Georgians have gotten state income tax rebate

But not everybody, including many seniors, will get one

The state said it would send out most income tax surplus rebates by August, and so far the Department of Revenue is delivering.

But what some Georgians — particularly seniors — are finding out is they won’t be getting the refund of $250 per single tax filer or $500 per couple. That’s because the law legislators wrote earlier this year doesn’t make everyone eligible for the rebate.

Gov. Brian Kemp promised earlier this year to use more than $1 billion from last year’s $3.7 billion revenue surplus to provide a tax rebate to Georgians, and state lawmakers codified his idea. He signed the rebate bill — worth about $1.1 billion — into law in March.

Under House Bill 1302, single Georgians would be able to receive a $250 refund when they file their taxes, joint filers $500. The refunds were approved for those who filed returns for the tax years 2020 and 2021.

It also said Georgians couldn’t get a bigger tax refund than what they paid in taxes.

“If you pay zero (income) taxes, you get zero refund,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, whose committee handled the bill in the House.

Or, if you paid $100 in taxes, that would be your refund.

Some seniors are finding out they won’t get the tax refund because other state exemptions mean they didn’t pay state income taxes.

For instance, under Georgia law, taxpayers from ages 62 to 64 can exclude up to $35,000 of their retirement income — from pensions or investments — on their state return. Taxpayers who are 65 or older can exclude up to $65,000 per person on their returns. Social Security benefits also aren’t taxed.

Blackmon said he doesn’t remember lawmakers talking about the law’s impact on Georgians exempt from income taxes, although there were discussions about giving an extra rebate to families with children.

Sandra Walden, 78, of Buford said in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the rebate was of no use to many seniors.

“We have to purchase goods, food, gasoline and whatever else we might need and we pay a pretty penny in sales taxes,” Walden said. “So one way or another we are still tax paying Georgia citizens who have lived in Georgia all of our lives.”

The governor’s office said it has been hearing from Georgians about not getting checks. But most of those messages are coming either from Georgians who aren’t eligible or those who got their refunds through direct deposit and didn’t notice it in their accounts.

More than 2.6 million refunds have been issued, it said. That’s reached more than 90% of those eligible for refunds who have filed returns. If someone who is eligible hasn’t received the rebate, the governor’s office said, it’s likely because they’ve either filed for an income tax filing extension or filed a late return that is still being processed.

More than a dozen states across the U.S. are using revenue surplus money to provide tax rebates. Much of the surplus money is due to a huge ramp-up in federal aid to families after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rebate issue resurfaced recently after Kemp and the Department of Revenue announced that state tax collections ended fiscal 2022 on June 30 more than $6 billion ahead of last year. That likely means another record surplus for the state.

Kemp’s opponent in his reelection bid in November, Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, immediately called for a new similar $1 billion income tax rebate, which would go to Georgia households making less than $250,000 a year. That’s about 95% of income tax filers in the state.

Abrams’ campaign used the same estimates as Kemp in determining the cost of the refund, so it’s unclear whether the seniors who missed out this time would get a rebate under her plan.