2012-03-21 / Front Page

Tax assessors issue subpoenas to six businesses

by Terry Toole

Tax assessors move from courthouse office to former Board of Education building. Tax assessors move from courthouse office to former Board of Education building. In a recent TV news release, a showdown over taxes seems to be brewing between some angry business owners and the office of the Miller County Tax Assessors and the Miller County Board.

Six businesses are being ordered to turn over their personal property tax documents for the last four years.

Since November, the Miller County Board of Assessors has sent four letters to businesses they say haven't paid taxes on their personal property.

Most business owners say they should not have to give up the documents because nothing in their businesses has changed in the last several years.

A meeting was held Thursday, March 15, with two members of the Board of Tax Assessors, Richard Dukes, chairman, and Howard Small, member, at the office of Tammy Pickle Phillips with several business owners that have been questioned or subpoenaed. Several points were discussed.

Mrs. Tammy P. Phillips, CPA, stated that she did not have a "dog in this fight," but was asked to speak for several business owners since she was more knowledgeable of tax laws.

The Miller County Tax Assessor Chairman on several occasions stated that all Miller County businesses will be audited. The six that have been subpoenaed are just the start.

The Board of Tax Assessors says the county should have been collecting this tax all along, but when people didn't pay it, there was no effort to collect it.

Danny Sheffield, who owns Colquitt Funeral Home, is one of six business owners who received a subpoena because he refuses to turn over his property tax documents.

"I'm not going to give it to them," says Sheffield. He has retained an attorney to represent him in this matter.

The Miller County Board of Assessors hired a company from Kennesaw to go through businesses’ books and tax records to determine how much their personal property is worth and then how much it should be taxed.

The county commissioners have a contract with Traylor of $15,000 each year for three years until every business in Miller County is audited.

Miller County is reviewing personal property tax records from 2008 through last year.

One business owner stated that with the Chief Appraiser Tammy Ivy's salary at over $50,000, and another appraiser and an office worker costing the taxpayers at least that amount, it doesn’t seem like we should have to pay a firm to do their work.

Ms. Ivy told several taxpayers that a county commissioner told her (Ivy) to get her salary raised; she had to fire the appraiser under her. The employee was not fired and got a raise, plus a raise for Ms. Ivy.

"We are all tired of being pushed, and we are going to push back," says Sheffield.

He says they cannot afford any more taxes, especially when the economy already has them down. "We just can’t pay anymore taxes," says Sheffield.

Another business owner stated that to give the tax assessors’ office information, it will wind up on Facebook.

If the county commissioners would try to cut back instead of adding on employees and changing offices to buildings at taxpayer expense, they might not need to gut those few businesses that are left and running them off or closing them.

Miller County already has the second highest millage rate in the state of the 159 counties.

"As far as the tax rate in the state of Georgia, Cobb County is the highest, and Miller County is right up under it, with number two," says Sheffield.

Owners say the tax will drive away small businesses.

"We don't have many businesses here as it is, and it looks like to me they are trying to run off the ones they do have," says Sheffield.

Two of the six business owners subpoenaed say that they will close the Colquitt businesses with this harassment. One will move to Seminole County. The other will close this plant and operate in Decatur County.

County officials say there's nothing they can do about this. They say the personal property tax is mandated by state law, and the county should already have been collecting it.

Traylor Business Services Incorporated of Kennesaw is the outside company auditing the tax documents for the City of Colquitt and Miller County.

It is the duty of the Board of Assessors to have a plan for fair and equal treatment of all taxpayers. The plan was requested by one or more taxpayers, and is yet to be produced.

The appraisers stated that it is not their duty to get additional tax dollars, but the firm that they hired states that additional tax dollars as immediate revenue for your county is one of the financial benefits and increases the tax base. The increase of fees over revenue was more than double to up to a 25 percent gain of taxes.

There are many laws involving taxes, and many that are not being considered by the Miller County Commissioners or the Miller County Board of Appraisers.

The businesses are the starting point. Real estate, homes, and farms will be next according to the assessors.

At a time when more businesses are desired to operate here, it seems that some employees of the city and county are ready to close those here down.


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