Tips for filing your Georgia state tax return

A basket of ripe, delicious peaches.Image: A basket of ripe, delicious peaches.

In a Nutshell

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia has extended its filing and payment deadline for 2019 income taxes to July 15, 2020.  
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This article was fact-checked by our editors and Christina Taylor, MBA, senior manager of tax operations for Credit Karma. It has been updated for the 2019 tax year.

Georgia has inspired performers from Ray Charles to Reba McEntire, and John Mayer to Elton John to sing of the Peach State’s charms.

And with just six individual income tax rates ranging from 1% to 5.75%, the state’s comparatively straightforward progressive tax system just might inspire you to file your Georgia state return if you live or work in this southern state.

Let’s look at some information that could help you file your state taxes in Georgia.

What are the basics of Georgia state taxes?

Taxing body

The Georgia Department of Revenue, or DOR, administers tax laws and collects taxes — along with other non-tax responsibilities — in the state.
The number for general state tax inquiries is 877-423-6711. You’ll also find info on filing state tax at Georgia Tax Center Help.

Filing and payment deadline

For 2019 state taxes, the state has extended the filing and payment deadline. Georgia residents now have until July 15, 2020 to file their state returns and pay any state tax they owe. As with the federal deadline extension, Georgia won’t charge interest on unpaid balances between April 15 and July 15, 2020.

You don’t need to do anything to get this extension. It’s automatic for all Georgia taxpayers. But keep in mind that if you’re expecting a refund, you might want to go ahead and file as soon as possible. During the coronavirus crisis, the state is continuing to process tax returns and issue refunds.

Although this year is a bit different, generally, Georgia’s Tax Day is the same deadline for filing your federal tax return — April 15. However, if the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline will be extended.

Filing statuses

Georgia recognizes federal filing statuses:

  • Single
  • Married filing jointly
  • Married filing separately
  • Head of household
  • Qualifying widow(er)/surviving spouse

When filing your Georgia tax return, use the same filing status you use on your federal tax return.

Georgia income tax rate(s)

Georgia’s tax rates are as easy to understand as 1-2-3. The state’s six income tax rates for 2019 are 1%, 2%, 3%, 4%, 5% and 5.75%. The tax rates that apply to your income will depend on your filing status and your taxable income.

Learn about federal tax rates and tax brackets

What are some Georgia deductions and credits to know?

In Georgia, you can take either a standard deduction or itemize deductions, but you must use whichever deduction — standard or itemized — you used on your federal return. Also, if you’re married filing separately and your spouse itemizes deductions, you must itemize deductions on your Georgia return.

For 2019, the standard deductions by filing status are …

  • Single/head of household — $4,600
  • Married filing joint return — $6,000
  • Married filing separate return — $3,000
  • $1,300 additional deduction for taxpayers and/or spouses who are 65 or older and/or blind

Deductions you may be able to itemize

If you must itemize deductions on your Georgia state tax return, you’ll use the same deductions that you claimed on your federal return. You may be required to add back in certain types of income that you’re not allowed to deduct in Georgia, such as investment interest expense for producing income exempt from Georgia tax. Because those types of income are exempt from Georgia state tax, you can’t take a deduction for them.

Available tax credits

Most of Georgia’s state-level tax credits are for businesses, but some are available to individuals. These include …

  • Historic homes rehabilitation: If you rehabilitate a historic home per Department of Natural Resources standards, you could be eligible for a credit of up to $100,000.
  • Qualified education expense credit: Each year, the state allows $58 million for this credit on a first-come, first-served basis. You’ll need to get preapproved to claim this credit.
  • Disabled person home purchase/retrofit credit: Permanently disabled people (or their spouses if they file a joint return) with a state-issued parking permit may be able to get a credit of up to $500 for buying a single-family home that includes certain accessibility features. A reduced credit is also available for renovating a home to have the required features.
  • Child and dependent care expense credit: If you claimed and received a child and dependent care expense credit on your federal return, you may be eligible for a state credit equal to 30% of your federal credit.
  • Qualified caregiving expense credit: If you provide caregiving for a qualified family member, you may be able to get a credit equal to 10% of qualified caregiving expenses, up to $150.

How can I file a Georgia state tax return?

You have multiple options for filing and paying your Georgia state income tax:

  • E-file using one of DOR’s approved software vendors. Some providers may charge fees, so review their terms, conditions and costs before choosing a provider.
  • Download forms — including 500 EZ or 500, Georgia’s equivalent of the federal 1040 — through the DOR website. You can complete and mail these forms to Georgia Department of Revenue, P.O. Box 740380, Atlanta, GA 30374-0380 if no balance is due or you’re owed a refund. If payment is due, mail to P.O. Box 740399, Atlanta, GA 30374-0399.
  • File and pay with a credit card using Georgia Tax Center.

For more information on filing state income tax, visit DOR’s Georgia Tax Center Help.

What if I owe and can’t pay?

You can request a payment plan with the Georgia Tax Center. You’ll need to create or have an account. Be aware there is a $50 processing fee and any applicable interest and penalties will continue to accrue on the unpaid tax.

How can I track a Georgia tax refund?

Just like the IRS, Georgia has a Check Your Refund tool to help you track your state refund. It may take more than 90 days from the date of receipt by DOR to process a return and issue your refund.

If you’re filing a Georgia tax return for the first time or you haven’t filed in Georgia for at least five years, the state will send your refund as a paper check.

Bottom line

The Georgia DOR begins processing income tax returns on Feb. 1, and says it processes most error-free, e-filed returns within five business days of receiving them. And it issues most refunds within 21 days from the date a return is filed.

E-filing and choosing to have any refund you’re owed directly deposited into your financial account could mean you get your refund faster, the DOR says. But if you’re filing a Georgia state tax return for the first time, or haven’t filed one in at least five years, any refund you’re owed will come in the mail as a paper check.

Christina Taylor is senior manager of tax operations for Credit Karma. She has more than a dozen years of experience in tax, accounting and business operations. Christina founded her own accounting consultancy and managed it for more than six years. She co-developed an online DIY tax-preparation product, serving as chief operating officer for seven years. She is the current treasurer of the National Association of Computerized Tax Processors and holds a bachelor’s in business administration/accounting from Baker College and an MBA from Meredith College. You can find her on LinkedIn.

About the author: Deb Hipp is a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. When she’s not writing about personal finance and news, she enjoys traveling to seas… Read more.