Senate panel OKs expanding home alcohol delivery, taxing downloads

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

A key state Senate committee on Monday backed a measure that in some areas would greatly expand the ability of Georgians to get wine, beer and liquor delivered to their home.

The expansion was added to House Bill 170 by Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, legislation that would allow the state to collect sales taxes when Georgians download books, video games or music.

The General Assembly approved limited delivery of alcoholic beverages to homes in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic was raging. However, the law limited deliveries by stores to customers who lived within their taxing jurisdiction, such as a city or county.

“It does not work for all of Georgia,” Carpenter told members of the Senate Finance Committee. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

So instead of limiting delivery areas to within a taxing jurisdiction, HB 170 — which passed the committee 6-3 — would allow stores to deliver within a 25-mile radius.

Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the current restrictions are “kind of silly.”

Albers’ north Fulton area has several cities, so “in some places you cannot deliver across the street.”

“We’d much rather someone get something delivered to them at their house than to potentially get in the car and drive under the influence,” Albers said.

Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, another member of the committee, noted that Georgians can currently order wine from online retailers and have it delivered to their home.

“Let’s just change the system and move on,” he said. “Let’s stop overregulating everything.”

But lobbyists for wine and liquor distributors opposed the change, saying it would make it difficult to both police and collect the taxes due if, say, somebody living in Roswell could have wine or beer delivered from a store in Marietta.

Among those who voiced opposition was former House Ways and Means Chairman Brett Harrell, the author of the 2020 law and now a lobbyist for the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Georgia.

A Georgia Department of Revenue official told the committee it wouldn’t present a major problem to collect taxes due on alcohol sales if Carpenter’s bill became law.

The alcoholic beverage lobby has historically had a lot of political pull at the Capitol, so the bill’s fate in the final days of the 2023 General Assembly session is iffy.

Under the current law, beer or wine can’t just be left on the front porch like Amazon deliveries.

The delivery person has to check IDs to make sure the buyer is old enough to purchase alcohol. The law allows local municipalities to opt out of allowing alcoholic beverage delivery.

Carpenter’s underlying bill to tax downloads is the latest attempt by lawmakers to put a levy on products purchased through internet sites in an effort to bring those sales in line with taxes paid when Georgians buy similar products from local stores.

It easily passed the House earlier in the session.

The House and Senate passed legislation in early 2020, a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the economy, to collect more sales taxes on products bought through internet sites.

The new tax proved a major boon to the state as Georgians began buying more and more products online.

Carpenter’s bill would expand on the previous measure to include downloads of things such as books, video games and music that a buyer retains possession of. It wouldn’t tax streaming services — such as Netflix — or subscription-based products.