How does a solar project win property tax relief from a local government when the government’s focus is on creating permanent, well-paid jobs?
By persuading local officials to look at the project from a different perspective, says John Gornall, an economic development attorney at Arnall Golden Gregory in Atlanta.
Mr. Gornall, who represented the State of Georgia in negotiating an agreement with Kia Motors to build a $1 billion automotive plant, discussed tax issues at the recent 2014 Georgia Solar Summit in Atlanta.
A solar project needs to secure performance-based, time-limited tax relief. But, outside of construction, the project is not a permanent job creator, so convincing local officials the incentive is warranted requires a creative approach.
Mr. Gornall, who has practiced law for 42 years, advises that after explaining how many construction jobs will be generated, focus on what the project will cost the government in terms of services. Nothing.
A solar project does not burden police or fire, or add students and traffic. It does not consume significant amounts of water or discharge waste.
“It’s a good message,” Mr. Gornall says. But it’s not “the clincher,” which is the additional tax revenue a solar project can provide.
He reviews numbers with the local tax assessor, then asks, “OK, what are you getting in taxes every year from that timberland? $800 a year? How would you like to get $8,000 a year?”
Because a solar project demands few services, “it’s all found money. The tax assessor quickly becomes your best advocate,” Mr. Gornall says.
Mr. Gornall and Mark Gould, another partner at Arnall Golden Gregory, serve the Alternative and Renewable Energy industry. Mr. Gould is on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Solar Energy Association, which organizes the annual Georgia Solar Summit, and is co-chair of the International Energy and Natural Resources Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of International Law.
Arnall Golden Gregory is a sponsor of the Georgia Solar Summit, which is held at the Georgia Tech Research Institute Conference Center.
About Arnall Golden Gregory LLP
Arnall Golden Gregory, with 160 attorneys in Atlanta and Washington, DC, employs a “business sensibility” approach, developing a deep understanding of each client’s situation in order to find a customized, cost-sensitive solution. Selected for The National Law Journal’s prestigious 2013 Midsize Hot List, the firm advises on corporate, litigation and regulatory matters for numerous industries, including business services, healthcare, life sciences, logistics and transportation, real estate, franchising, information services, energy, and manufacturing. AGG is a solutions partner that subscribes to the belief “not if, but how.”