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Georgians to enjoy tax break on energy-saving appliances

By Dave Williams

dave.williams@graypub.com

ATLANTA - Homeowners worried about their electric bills, interested in helping to lower energy demand or simply looking for a bargain can take advantage of a sales tax holiday later this week.

From Thursday through Sunday, shoppers will be able to buy many energy-saving appliances and products without paying either the 4 percent state sales tax or the local tax of 1 to 3 cents.

Under legislation approved by the General Assembly this year, the sales tax exemption will apply to noncommercial appliances and products that cost $1,500 or less and carry the Energy Star label from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy.

The list of eligible items covers a wide range, from refrigerators and air conditioners to ceiling fans and fluorescent light bulbs.

"It's a win for the state, a win for the environment and, certainly, a win for retailers," said John Heavener, spokesman for the Georgia Retail Association.

This is the third year the state has offered a sales tax holiday on energy-efficient products.

Last year, it was combined with the back-to-school sales tax holiday in an effort to make it easier on merchants.

But Heavener said putting the two together caused sales of energy-saving items to slump by one-third to one-half compared to the previous year, when it was offered at a different time of year.

"It was overshadowed by the back-to-school tax holiday," he said.

Shane Hix, spokesman for the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, said the Energy Star sales tax holiday originated with a proposal submitted to the state Public Service Commission by Georgia Power Co.

The PSC had asked the utility for ideas on conserving energy, Hix said.

Georgia Power turned over its plan to the commission in February 2005. Within weeks, Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan) introduced a bill calling for what became the first year of the tax holiday.

This week's sales tax break is expected to cost the state and, thus, save taxpayers $430,000, according to the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts.

That's just a fraction of the nearly $12 million the agency estimated taxpayers would save from the two sales tax holidays combined, an indication of the popularity of the back-to-school tax holiday.

Charles Willey, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Revenue, said the state has never sought to determine the actual fiscal impact of the offer after the sales tax holidays are over.

"To do so, we'd have to put additional reporting criteria on the retailers," he said.

AT A GLANCE

Here are some of the energy-saving appliances and products consumers can buy without paying sales taxes during a statewide sales tax holiday that runs from Thursday through Sunday:

Refrigerators

Dishwashers

Washing machines

Air conditioners

Dehumidifiers

Ceiling fans

Programmable thermostats

Doors and windows

Fluorescent light bulbs