LAWRENCEVILLE — One Gwinnett County commissioner wants voters to decide the future of what he called the beginnings of a small-scale Fair Tax. Another commissioner, however, feels it could be a case of pre-election promises.
During a strategic planning meeting in Buford on Tuesday, Commissioner Mike Beaudreau talked about the possibility of a local option sales tax for the November ballot.
On Wednesday, Beaudreau elaborated on the idea.
“We’re still kind of fleshing out the details,” he said. “the biggest issue is trying to shift the overarching burden of taxes from strictly property owners to more of a consumption-based tax. It’s a localized version of the fair tax.”
If approved in November, voters would pay a higher sales tax on purchases of new goods and services with some relief from property taxation. Beaudreau said the establishment of the 1-percent sales tax would help fund county operations. Residents in Gwinnett County currently pay a 6-percent sales tax.
Fellow Commissioner John Heard said it’s a real can of worms.
“When you start trying to overhaul the tax system, it’s an undertaking that must be preceded by caution,” Heard said. “The sales tax has a lot more volatility than property taxes.”
Heard added that he “question(ed) the legitimacy” of his colleague’s plans. “Mr. Beaudreau’s been in office for a long time now, and I hope this is not just an election-cycle event that he’s coming up with to get reelected.”
Heard said he feared that even if voters approved the measure, the property tax “could never be removed in perpetuity.”
If approved by voters, Beaudreau said the shift in property tax collections would “take much of the burden off the backs of property owners.”
The idea came up at the county’s strategic planning session at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, during which Chief Appraiser Steve Pruitt said the county tax digest would likely decline by 8.6 percent within the year.
The local option sales tax measure would be strictly a voter-approved action. The board could only approve a referendum to put it in the hands of the voters.
Commissioners could discuss the idea at an upcoming board meeting.
According to its website, the Fair Tax is a sales tax “that treats every person equally and allows American businesses to thrive” by establishing an equal sales tax on purchases of new goods and services.