Expressing heavy hearts, the Fayette County Board of Commissioners denied the request by a local resident for refunds related to a Veterans Exemption on tax returns dating back to 2010 while vowing to help work with the legislature to open the door to assist those in similar situations.
This May, Peter L. Davis brought a judgement order to the Fayette County Tax Commissioner’s Office to apply for the LDV2 Veterans Exemption, effective Jan. 1, 2010. Davis was asking for tax refunds totaling $7,658.50 for 2010 through 2015, years for which he was retroactively declared disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Per the official request in the agenda packet, failure to apply for the exemption would constitute a waiver of exemption, however he was unable to apply for the exemption previously as he waited seven years to receive the required documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Because there was no erroneous or illegal assessment or collection of tax, staff recommended denial of Davis’ request.
Fayette County Tax Commissioner George Wingo spoke in support of Davis, saying that the VA dragging their feet for years is causing veterans exemptions to come across his desk with greater frequency lately, and he did not want the county to forget about those who served.
“I suggest you consider how you’re going to treat the veterans in your community,” said Wingo.
County Attorney Dennis Davenport laid out that, while tax refunds can be issued up to three years retroactively, there is no provision in Georgia law to allow for retroactive exemptions.
“Nothing in state law allows for retroactive application of exemptions,” said Davenport.
Davis’ request would be denied 3-2, Charles Oddo, Randy Ognio, and Charles Rousseau voting in opposition.
“I want to say publicly I am somewhat embarrassed that I could not in good conscience vote for the assistance in the exemption. I think all of us up here, without reservation, support the veterans of this county, however we have to do this right,” said Commissioner Rousseau, saying that approving retroactive refunds for an exemption could set a dangerous precedent.
“If someone is a veteran and they meet the criteria, they should get the money. This process is really cumbersome for these families,” said Commissioner Steve Brown. “I don’t see any problem setting a precedent. I feel like this is a precedent worth setting.”
The potential for it to open the door for all residents left some wary.
“If we do this for a veteran, would we have to do this for other residents who are not veterans?” asked Commissioner Ognio. “I wish there was a way we could limit it to veterans.”
Rousseau asked that the commission request assistance from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia to rally other local officials to go to the state level to ensure disabled veterans receive all of the benefits they deserve. County Administrator Steve Rapson, himself a veteran, assured that they would try to get it part of the state legislative package next year.