ATLANTA — As Georgians go to the polls to cast their ballots in the November midterms, they will weigh the candidates for races such as Senate, governor and more. Tucked in toward the end of the ballot are a couple of other questions confronting voters, which with they might not have as much familiarity.
They are statewide referendums - measures that all the voters in Georgia will see on their ballot.
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The referendum questions primarily have to do with tax law changes. Here's an explanation of what they would do if voters give them their approval:
Referendum Question A
- Ballot text: Provides for ad valorem tax exemption for certain timber production, reforestation, and harvesting equipment.
- Question: "Shall the Act be approved which grants a statewide exemption from all ad valorem taxes for certain equipment used by timber producers in the production or harvest of timber?"
What it means: First, an "ad valorem" tax usually relates to vehicles but can apply to some other things.
In this case, House Bill 997 would change a provision in Georgia law for tax exemptions on farm equipment and products. Currently that law specifically states, "Qualified farm products shall not include standing timber."
If voters approve this referendum, that would be reversed.
The new provisions in the law would create exemptions for equipment used in the timber industry such as "all off-road equipment and related attachments used in every forestry procedure starting with the severing of a tree from the ground until and including the point at which the tree or its parts in any form has been loaded in the field in or on a truck or other vehicle for transport to the place of use."
Examples of equipment that would fall under the exemption include "skidders, feller bunchers, debarkers, delimbers, chip harvesters, tub-grinders, wood cutters, chippers of all types, loaders of all types, dozers, mid-motor graders."
Timber products under the change would include "trees, timber or other wood and wood fiber products grown from or on the land."
If approved, the change in law would be effective Jan. 1, 2023 and "be applicable to all tax years beginning on or after such date."
Referendum Question B
- Ballot text: Expands ad valorem tax exemption for family-owned farms and adds qualified products to the exemption.
- Question: "Shall the Act be approved which expands a statewide exemption from ad valorem taxes for agricultural equipment and certain farm products held by certain entities to include entities comprising two or more family owned farm entities, and which adds dairy products and unfertilized eggs of poultry as qualified farm products with respect to such exemption?"
What it means: This one is a little more complex.
The tax exemption already exists for family farms, this would simply redefine under state law what qualifies for the exemption as a "family farm."
Currently, a family farm means: "family corporation, a family partnership, a family general partnership, a family limited partnership, a family limited corporation, or a family limited liability company all of the interest of which is owned by one or more natural or naturalized citizens related to each other within the fourth degree of civil reckoning."
This measure would add as eligible to that any "entity created by the merger or consolidation of two or more entities that would qualify independently as a family owned farm entity as defined in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph." (Subparagraph A is the paragraph above.)
In plainer English, it would allow any merged or consolidated farm to qualify for the exemption if the merged or consolidated parts of the farm would, on their own, qualify for the family farm exemption.
This could potentially allow larger farms that would not qualify as family farms to now qualify if their merged parts would qualify separately.