Is bringing back Georgia's grocery tax a good idea?

By Laurie Bernstein - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - For Columbus resident Sonya Goebel, living on a fixed income is hard enough, without having to worry about taxes on her food.

"Food is a no-no...that and medicine. My medications have gone up in price, and the last thing I need is for food to go up. I'm losing weight already because there are things I can't afford to buy, like meat," said Goebel.

Like millions of other Georgia residents, Goebel may be shelling out more money just to put food on the table, if the state legislature passed a four percent grocery tax increase.

Supporters of the tax say it's meant to tax out of state visitors, not people who live here; Georgians will have to pay up front, but they can later apply for a tax credit on their income tax return.

Accountants warn, though, that it's not as good as it sounds.

"This is not a refundable credit, it can only offset what you have to pay. If my tax was $500, and my sales tax credit was $2000, I don't get that extra $1500," said Scott Voynich, a CPA with Robinson and Grimes in Columbus.

It's even worse for senior citizens and low income Georgians; they get left out of the benefits all together.

"That's wonderful...if you pay taxes. I don't pay taxes, either federal or state, so I can't ask for a credit," said Goebel.

"My mother lives on a fixed income, so that would affect her, and I wouldn't like it," said Don Hamby, another Columbus resident.

Many legislators are desperately trying to come up with ways to increase revenue to prevent more budget cuts.

Most in Columbus, though, say taxing necessities like food is crossing the line.

"No matter how you look at it, it will be a tax increase, and in a down economy, that's the wrong answer," said Voynich.

"It's going to drive us into starvation," said Goebel.

It seems like legislators are starting to listen to the people.

News coming out of Atlanta is that the bill is pretty much dead, and most likely will not make it to the House floor for a vote.

Thursday is the deadline for bills to pass during this session...News Leader Nine will keep you updated.