A north Forsyth legislator who succeeded in passing a law last year that gives tax credits to Georgia residents who donate to rural hospitals is now pushing to increase the amount of money taxpayers can get back.
Last April, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law Senate Bill 258, which District 26 state Rep. Geoff Duncan said he first conceived while sitting in church one day.
For years, Duncan said, rural hospitals throughout Georgia have struggled to remain open, fighting to save Georgians’ lives.
The current law is helping save those hospitals, but House Bill 54 will increase the amount of aid the hospitals receive.
“I had a Representative come up to me and say, ‘My hospital administrator came up to me and said this is our last hope, we’ve gotta have this bill,’” Duncan said. “And I said, ‘Yes, sir, we’re doing everything we can to make it happen.’”
In addition to raising the amount of money taxpayers can get back, the bill caps the statewide credit at $60 million each year, through 2019.
“Some of the feedback I got was, ‘Hey, if we had some uniformity here, this would be a whole lot easier for us to give, if it was more predictable,” Duncan said. “So I flat-lined it.”
The initial law, which took effect Jan. 1, allows taxpayers to apply for a state income tax credit for either 70 percent of an individual’s contribution to an approved rural hospital, or $2,500 – whichever is less.
For a couple filing jointly, the credit can be 70 percent of the contribution or $5,000 – again, whichever is less. A corporation or fiduciary taxpayer can receive a tax credit of up to 70 percent of contributions or 75 percent of income tax liability.
Under the new law, donations of up to $4 million to approved hospitals are eligible for tax credit. However, the credit will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis and is set to expire after three years.
The statewide cap of tax credits is currently set at $50 million in 2017, $60 million in 2018 and $70 million in 2019. The program, as it stands, will remain in place through 2019.
Duncan said HB 54, which he is currently working on, will increase those numbers and change the cap amount, which he said he hopes will provide even more of an incentive to taxpayers.
“We’re looking to see [the bill] get out of rules and hit the House floor next week,” Duncan said. “It made a pretty quick track through Ways and Means so I expect to see it coming out of Rules and get it to the Senate as quickly as we can.”
Duncan said HB 54 will essentially return the law to how he originally presented it, which allowed individual taxpayers to receive credit for 90 percent of the contribution or $5,000 — whichever is less.
For a couple filing jointly, the credit could be 90 percent of the contribution or $10,000 — again, whichever is less.
“We have heard from rural hospitals that there are literally millions of dollars sitting on the counters of these hospitals, waiting for this tax credit to go back to where I originally wrote the bill at 90 percent,” Duncan said. “Once that happens, [the hospitals] have heard from all indications from their communities that those dollars will start flowing directly to those rural hospitals, so obviously that is a big deal.
“This, for the most part, gets us back to the original idea that was written. Last year, in the last hours of the General Assembly, the Senate took the percentage down to 70 percent, so this bill comes back and changes the 70 percent back up to 90 percent and makes it retroactive, which is one of the most important parts. People who have already given this year or anyone who is contemplating it, [HB 54] allows it to be retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year.”
Duncan said he hopes the bill will continue moving quickly, given how much the hospitals need help.
If it passes on the House floor, it will move to the Senate to be reviewed before getting a vote.