Despite likely short-term financial damage to the state budget, Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday that Georgia will move its deadline for filing income tax returns from April 15 to July 15 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal government had announced Friday that its income tax return deadline would be extended three months.
The move will provide relief to some taxpayers, and forcing governments to wait for tax payments may not seem like a big deal.
But the state's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. So the decision will move the filing deadline into fiscal 2021, the next fiscal year.
The state, by law, must end the fiscal year with a balanced budget.
The change is less of an issue for the federal government, which ends its fiscal year Sept. 30 and borrows to keep funding its spending.
The state collects roughly $2.8 billion worth of income taxes in March and April. At least some of those payments will now likely be delayed.
The state was already facing a major potential shortfall this fiscal year as businesses close, Georgians lose jobs and economic activity in general slows dramatically in response to the virus. Less economic activity means less tax revenue.
Kemp last week signed a $27.5 billion mid-year budget that was meant to fund state services -- from teacher salaries and the state patrol to health care programs working to address the pandemic -- through June 30.
However, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the virus' economic impact is expected to mean the state won't be able to meet that budget without using state reserves, federal assistance or cutting spending.
Or a combination of all three.
House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said he is expecting that state lawmakers will face a “do over” on the budget it passed earlier this month.
Besides paying for a huge range of services, the state budget at least partially funds the salaries of more than 200,000 Georgians, from teachers and university staffers to prison guards, food safety inspectors, park rangers and criminal investigators.
Income taxes are the top source of revenue for the state, and Georgia collects about 20 percent of its income taxes in March and April.
In a conference call President Donald Trump held with governors last week, Kemp made a case for federal help. Kemp did the same in a letter to Congressional leaders Monday, along with about 20 other Republican governors.
The state has about $2.6 billion to $2.7 billion in reserves, enough to fund services for about a month without other revenue. Kemp has already committed $100 million worth of reserves to fight the pandemic.