State house passes small business tax incentive bills

ATLANTA - A pair of bills meant to stimulate the economy by giving small businesses tax incentives to create jobs easily passed the Georgia House of Representatives Thursday.

The legislation would eliminate the state's inventory tax, the sales tax deposit for retailers and offer tax credits for hiring the unemployed.

House Bills 481, which contains the job credits, passed 164-4. House Bill 482, which deals with the inventory tax, passed 166-0.

The bills now move to the Senate for consideration. They would:

- Eliminate the year-end state inventory tax on equipment and goods stored in Georgia. Local inventory taxes would not be effected. Supporters said Georgia is one of only six states with the tax.

- Eliminate the sales tax deposit. Currently businesses give the state one month's worth of expected sales tax revenue as a deposit. State Rep. Martin Scott, R-Rossville, said the loss to state revenues would be minimal, since it would just be the interest on the $160 to $180 million kept on deposit. A separate piece of legislation, scheduled to be debated later today, would require more businesses to pay their sales taxes electronically.

- Offer a $2,400 income tax credit for hiring an unemployed person and keeping them hired for 24 months. They must be given at least 30 hours of work per week, but health benefits are not required. - Waive the $100 registration fee for new businesses for one year.

State Rep. Tom Graves, a Ranger Republican and the measures' sponsor, said the bills rely on the entreprenurial spirit of Georgians and address the state' 8.6 percent unemployment rate, which is higher than the national average.

"I know, as a small business owner, the quickest way to put individuals back to work is to offer encouragement. ..." Graves said. "To step out there and say 'hire one more person.' That's all we're asking."