Kemp: $1.1 billion in Georgia tax refunds begins this week

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs a bill to give state income refunds of more than $1.1 billion on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta. The measure gives refunds of $250 to $500 to people who filed tax returns for 2020 and 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy, File)

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says special state income tax refunds will begin this week, although it could be early August before everyone who filed a return before the April deadline will get paid.

The Republican Kemp persuaded lawmakers to approve paying $1.1 billion in one-time refunds out of Georgia’s historic budget surplus.

House Bill 1302, which Kemp signed into law March 23, will give a refund of up to $250 to single filers, up to $375 to single adults who head a household with dependents and up to $500 to married couples filing jointly. The refund would only be paid to people who filed tax returns for both the 2020 and 2021 tax years, and no one can get back more than they paid in state income taxes in 2020.

Crediting or issuing a refund will be automatic for anyone who files a 2020 and 2021 return, with no further action required. People who have already filed 2021 tax returns won’t have to refile their taxes.

The refunds come as Kemp seeks to win his party’s nomination for a second term in the May 24 Republican primary. Kemp also persuaded lawmakers to suspend Georgia’s motor fuel tax through May 31 and signed a measure that is supposed to eventually create a 4.99% flat state income tax, down from the current top rate of 5.75%. Budgets provide $5,000 raises for state and university employees, $2,000 raises for K-12 teachers and pension increases for some state retirees as well.

Kemp says the refund is a response to inflation, saying in a statement Wednesday “we are doing what we can to provide relief by returning their money back into their pockets.”

Economists, though, say a burst of state tax cuts nationwide will actually push up inflation by putting more money into circulation.

Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, Kemp’s top Republican challenger, has accused the incumbent of a “desperate attempt to get votes.” Perdue instead wants a plan to phase out Georgia’s entire state income tax.

Democrats have attacked Kemp for taking advantage of tax receipts propped up by federal aid he opposed.

The payments would go to people who filed their 2021 taxes before the April 18 deadline. Refunds won’t be issued until a taxpayer’s 2021 return is processed.

“Due to the volume of refunds, it may take some time for all refunds to be processed,” the state Revenue Department warned on a website explaining the refunds.

Georgia ran a $3.7 billion surplus in the 2021 budget year, filling its rainy day fund to the legal limit and leaving $2.3 billion in additional undesignated surplus Kemp is using the for the income tax refunds and gas tax holiday.

The refund will not count as taxable income for state purposes, but Revenue Commissioner Robyn Crittenden earlier said it would count as taxable income for federal income taxes.

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