Rural hospital tax credit program gets clean bill of health



Georgia’s rural hospital tax credit program has received such a positive audit that the report doesn’t recommend any improvements.

The annual evaluation of the tax credit by the Georgia De- partment of Audits & Accounts released April 28 concluded that all participating hospitals, taxpayers and third parties are complying with the law that created the program to help struggling rural hospitals make ends meet.

The program brought in $59.4 million in contributions to eligible rural hospitals last year, the audit found, nearly hitting the annual cap of $60 million. Supporters in the General Assembly introduced legislation this year to raise the cap to $100 million but were forced to settle for $75 million.

Contributions have approached the $60 million cap during most years since the program was launched in 2016. However, donations fell to $46.5 million in 2019 after a change in federal law rendered individual taxpayers ineligible to receive an income tax deduction for charitable donations if they received a state tax credit for the same contribution.

Also, the 2019 audit found that donations to the program weren’t necessarily going to the neediest hospitals, a trend that continued the following year.

However, the 2020 audit concluded that both hospitals and taxpayers were complying with the law governing the tax credit. As a result, contributions in 2020 rebounded to $54.3 million.

The new audit concluded that administrative fees the 56 rural hospitals that participate in the tax credit paid the Georgia HEART Hospital Program to market the program and process contributions remained within the 3% limit set by state law.

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