By Ryan Crawford
ATLANTA - The Georgia Department of Revenue said Tuesday it has received a lot of questions about its new telework tax credit, the first program of its kind in the nation, but has received few applications so far.
Businesses were able to apply for the tax credit beginning Sept. 1 and have until Oct. 31 to get applications postmarked.
"We haven't received a lot of applications so far, but we're a little early yet," said Charles Willey, spokesman for the Department of Revenue. "There is interest there."
Under the law, employers are eligible for a one-time credit of up to $20,000 to offset program setup costs, plus annual credits of up to $1,200 per new teleworker. Eligible expenses include equipment (computers, telecommunications, data entry and data processing), software and maintenance. Businesses are eligible if they start or expand their telework programs.
"We were certainly supporting (the law)," said Kevin Green, executive director of The Clean Air Campaign. "It really demonstrates Georgia is a leader in terms of encouraging businesses to support teleworking as a strategy."
A recent study by the Center for Transportation and the Environment found that 18 percent (443,024) of metro Atlanta commuters telework at least occasionally and 26 percent of employers offer teleworking as an option - numbers Green said could be on the rise.
"Companies are now calling us and getting on board," he said. "This tax credit helps. It may be just the nudge employers need to adopt a teleworking policy."
It's clear that employees commuting into the city from Gwinnett are looking for better transportation options. A recently released report by the U.S. Census Bureau showed a sizable increase in the number of carpoolers in Gwinnett County last year.
"I will say the pain is pretty significant in Gwinnett, and that's no surprise to anybody," Green said.
So while alleviating frustrations and reducing traffic are two of the obvious benefits of teleworking, a more productive workforce is another that might not be as easily recognized, Green said.
"I think there's still some businesses that have the old mind-set that if I don't see you working, you're not working," Green said. "And that's one reason to establish a formal telework policy so that employers and employees know what the standards are going to be."
The amount of the tax credit businesses receive depends in part on how great the response is. The Georgia General Assembly has allotted up to $2 million in credits for the 2008 tax year. If the amount of requested credits exceeds $2 million, then the dispersed funds may be less than anticipated.
The amount businesses receive also depends on if they are located in "attainment" or "nonattainment" areas. Areas are classified based on whether they meet federal air quality standards.
Nonattainment areas, such as Gwinnett, do not meet the national ambient air quality standard. Businesses in those areas may claim up to 100 percent of the credit for teleworkers who telework 12 or more days per month, while those outside nonattainment areas may claim up to 75 percent.
For teleworkers who telework five or more days each month, employers in both attainment and nonattainment areas may claim up to 25 percent of the credit.
The Clean Air Campaign is working to increase public awareness of this incentive and will hold an informational session Friday to help answer any questions on the telework tax credit. The deadline to R.S.V.P. for the session is today.
"I don't think as many employers know about it as need to know about it," Green said. "We think now is the time to join the teleworking movement. We're one of the most wired regions in the nation, but we still have one of the longest commutes, and I think that lends an opportunity in and of itself."
SideBar: If You Go
What: Information session on the Georgia telework tax credit
When: Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Where: Woodruff Arts Center
To R.S.V.P.: E-mail Ashlee Dunckel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877-CLEANAIR (877-253-2624)
Deadline to apply for the tax credit: Oct. 31