Georgia to extend rural job tax credits to include remote workers

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The Georgia Department of Community Affairs plans to extend a state tax credit program that incentivizes job creation in rural areas to include positions that work remotely.

The proposed rule change also would allow businesses to use their 2019 employment levels to seek the tax credit in the 2020 and 2021 tax years.

“As the governor has encouraged, and to a large degree is still encouraging, remote work to be performed, we wanted to make sure that the rules were consistent with those directives,” said Rusty Haywood, deputy commissioner of the agency’s community development and finance division.

Under the program, investors and business owners in rural areas can qualify for a tax break for creating jobs or investing in property in historic downtown areas in cities and towns with populations less than 15,000, dubbed rural zones.

Employers who launch or expand a business in a designated rural zone and hire at least two full-time workers within any taxable year after Jan. 1, 2018, can qualify for a $2,000 tax cut for every job they create, up to $40,000. Investors who purchased property in the rural zones that meet the two-job minimum can qualify for 25% of the purchase price but no more than $125,000. Developers also can get a credit equal to 30% of the rehabilitation cost, up to $150,000. A business can claim credits in each category, which range from three to five years.

The GDCA held a virtual public hearing Wednesday for the provision that would allow credits to be issued temporarily for remote employees who live in Georgia.

“We won’t sit here and predict, try to predict, what may happen at the conclusion of 2021,” Haywood said. “Let’s hope we have a far more sense of normalcy than we do on Oct. 28, 2020.”

No one disputed the changes at the meeting Wednesday. The GDCA board plans to vote Nov. 18 on proposed rule changes.

Colquitt, Donalsonville, Hawkinsville, Hiawassee, Leesburg, Moultrie, Stone Mountain, Thomson, West Point and Woodbury were added to the state’s rural zones last week, bringing the total to 35 cities. Each designation lasts for five years.

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