Should Law Offices Be Exempt From Biz Occupation Taxes? - By Mike Hassinger
AFP GA Comment: Is this an issue of “he who makes the gold makes the rules” turning on its head to be “he who argues the rules keeps their gold”? Punitive business taxes are a bad rule, all around, but does this not underscore how the tax system is used to show favoritism and control activity?
Law offices don’t have to pay business occupational taxes. Who knew? Apparently there’s a rule, created by lawyers (naturally) that declares a business occupation tax a “regulation,” and since only the Supreme Court of Georgia can regulate attorneys in their practice of law, quid erat retainer, no business tax on law offices.
The city of Dunwoody is attempting to levy a tax on law offices. Their “business occupation tax” appears to be nothing more than an attempt to create a revenue source for the city -not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, cities need revenue and business licenses, occupational taxes and red-light cameras are among the many ways they collect it.
But the Constitutional question seems to come down to whether or not this “business occupation tax” is a “regulation of the practice of law.” We know that penalties for not buying health insurance (as mandated by Obamacare) are taxes, because the US Supreme Court told us so last year. But are local taxes also “regulations?” Unless Dunwoody has singled out law offices for the $400 fee, or trying to direct attorneys to practice one kind of law rather than another, it doesn’t appear so. But that’s a common-sense, plain-language take on the matter. You can watch real lawyers argue for and against after the jump, and decide for yourselves.