City of Atlanta v. City of Coll. Park, No. S11G1839.

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtMELTON
Citation292 Ga. 741,741 S.E.2d 147
PartiesCITY OF ATLANTA v. CITY OF COLLEGE PARK et al.
Docket NumberNo. S11G1839.
Decision Date28 March 2013

292 Ga. 741
741 S.E.2d 147

CITY OF ATLANTA
v.
CITY OF COLLEGE PARK et al.

No. S11G1839.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

March 28, 2013.



Hunton & Williams, Matthew J. Calvert, Cherie A. Phears, Atlanta, for appellant.

[741 S.E.2d 148]

Fincher, Denmark & Williams, Steven M. Fincher, Winston A. Denmark, Michael J. Williams, Emilia C. Walker, Jonesboro, for appellees.


MELTON, Justice.

[292 Ga. 741]The Cities of Atlanta and College Park entered into an agreement in 1969 (the “Agreement”) for purposes of expanding Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport (the “Airport”). One of the provisions of the Agreement granted Atlanta the exclusive right to collect and levy occupation taxes from businesses located at its Airport that were within the city limits of College Park. In 2007, after commissioning a study for the purpose of reassessing this relationship, College Park informed Atlanta and Airport businesses that it would no longer honor the 1969 Agreement and that it would now seek to collect occupation taxes from the Airport businesses including Atlanta's proprietary business operations.

Atlanta filed a declaratory action in Fulton County Superior Court seeking a judgment that the 1969 Agreement controlled the collection of occupation taxes from businesses operating at the Airport within College Park. Both Atlanta and College Park moved for partial summary judgment, and, in ruling on the cross-motions, the trial court found that Atlanta and College Park's 1969 Agreement was unenforceable. The trial court further ruled that OCGA § 48–13–13(5), which prohibits local governments from levying an occupation tax on any “local authority,” precluded College Park from levying an occupation tax on Atlanta's proprietary operations because Atlanta met the definition of a “local authority” under the statute.1

Both parties appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment invalidating the 1969 Agreement, but reversed the trial court's finding that the term “local authority” as used in OCGA § 48–13–13(5) included municipalities. Accordingly, because Atlanta was not a “local authority” that was exempt from the imposition of occupation taxes, the Court of Appeals found that College Park could properly levy an occupation tax on the City of Atlanta for its proprietary operations occurring within College Park. City of Atlanta v. City of College Park, 311 Ga.App. 62(2), 715 S.E.2d 158 (2011). This Court granted Atlanta's petition for certiorari to determine whether the Court of Appeals erred when it determined that the City of Atlanta was not a “local authority” as that term is used in OCGA § 48–13–13(5). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

[292 Ga. 742]With respect to its power to collect a tax, “the governing authority of any ... municipality...... may exercise [such] power ... as authorized by th[e Georgia] Constitution or by general law.” Ga. Const. Art. IX, § IV, Para. I(a). And, with respect to its responsibility to pay a tax, a municipality is not necessarily exempted from paying taxes whenever it conducts activities outside of its own territorial limits that would otherwise subject it to paying a tax. See, e.g., OCGA § 48–5–41(a)(1)(B) (Subject to certain statutorily created exceptions, “[n]o public real property which is owned by a political subdivision of this state and which is situated outside the territorial limits of the political subdivision shall be exempt from ad valorem taxation”). See also, e.g., Clayton County Bd. of Tax Assessors v. City of Atlanta, 286 Ga.App. 193, 203(4), 648 S.E.2d 701 (2007) (City of Atlanta was not exempt from paying ad valorem taxes to Clayton County where Atlanta had only acted in “its proprietary capacity” with respect to a “profit-generating undertaking” in the County), overruled on other grounds by Gilmer County Bd. of Tax Assessors v. Spence, 309 Ga.App. 482(1)(a), 711 S.E.2d 51 (2011).

Pursuant to the Georgia Public Revenue Code (OCGA § 48–1–1, et seq.), “each municipal corporation is authorized ... to provide ... for the levy, assessment, and collection of occupation tax on those businesses and practitioners of professions and occupations which have one or more locations or offices within the corporate limits.” OCGA § 48–13–6(b); OCGA § 48–13–5(4) (An “occupation tax” is “a tax levied on persons, partnerships, corporations, or other entities

[741 S.E.2d 149]

for engaging in an occupation, profession, or business.”) (Emphasis supplied). Accordingly, at first glance it would appear that where a municipality such as Atlanta is not acting to carry out a government function, but rather, is acting in a proprietary business capacity outside of its own territorial limits and within the municipal corporate limits of another municipality, it could be responsible for paying occupation taxes to that municipality for conducting such proprietary business operations. Indeed, as the Court of Appeals correctly observed:

Under Georgia law, when Atlanta acts in its capacity as a lessor at the airport for the purpose of obtaining revenue, it is acting in a proprietary capacity and not carrying out a governmental function. See Clayton County Bd. of Tax Assessors [, supra];Caroway v. City of Atlanta, 85 Ga.App. 792, 795–798(1), 70 S.E.2d 126 (1952) (The City of Atlanta, which leased out portions of its municipal airport passenger terminal building for the purpose of obtaining revenue, was engaged in a proprietary function and, therefore, was subject to liability as a premises owner.); see also OCGA § 48–5–4[292 Ga. 743](Except as prohibited by federal law, “all property owned or possessed in this state by a corporation organized under the laws of the United States or owned or possessed by an agency of the United States engaged in this state in proprietary, as distinguished from governmental, activities shall be subject to ad valorem taxation in this state at the same rate and in the same manner as the property of private corporations owning property in this state and engaged in similar businesses.”).

City of Atlanta, supra, 311 Ga.App. at 68(2) n. 15, 715 S.E.2d 158. The Public Revenue Code makes clear, however, that “[l]ocal governments [such as the government of College Park] are not authorized to ... [l]evy any occupation tax ... on[, among other entities,] any ... local authority.” OCGA § 48–13–13(5). See also OCGA §§ 48–13–16(a); 43–12–1. The City of Atlanta argues that it qualifies as a “local authority” under OCGA § 48–13–13(5) such that it would not have to pay occupation taxes to the City of College Park for conducting proprietary operations there.


“Municipalities” that engage in revenue generating business within the corporate limits of another municipality are not specifically listed as entities that would be exempt from paying occupation taxes. See generally OCGA § 48–13–13. Nor is the term “local authority” defined in OCGA § 48–13–13 to include municipalities. It also is not made clear from the statute that a “local government”/municipality that levies an occupation tax is the same thing as a...

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15 practice notes
  • Deal v. Coleman, Nos. S13A1084
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • November 18, 2013
    ...omitted). To that end, we must afford the statutory text its “plain and ordinary meaning,” City of Atlanta v. City of College Park, 292 Ga. 741, 744, 741 S.E.2d 147 (2013) (citation and punctuation omitted), we must view the statutory text in the context in which it appears, Hendry v. Hendr......
  • In re , Nos. A13A0507
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • October 21, 2013
    ...(k), effective July 1, 1995); Ga. L. 2004, p. 161, § 1 (repealing former OCGA § 29–2–16). 14.City of Atlanta v. City of College Park, 292 Ga. 741, 741 S.E.2d 147 (2013) (Under the fundamental rules of statutory construction, an appellate court is required “to construe [a] statute according ......
  • Ga. Pac. Consumer Prods., LP v. Ratner, A17A1969, A17A1970
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 8, 2018
    ...and footnotes omitted.) Busch v. State , 271 Ga. 591, 592, 523 S.E.2d 21 (1999) ; see also City of Atlanta v. City of College Park , 292 Ga. 741, 744, 741 S.E.2d 147 (2013) (when a term is undefined in a statute, "the cardinal rule is to glean the intent of the legislature") (citation omitt......
  • Amazing Amusements Grp., Inc. v. Wilson, A19A0991
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • October 30, 2019
    ...is predicated is invalid.") (punctuation omitted).9 See OCGA § 50-27-76 (b).10 (Punctuation omitted.) City of Atlanta , 292 Ga. at 744, 741 S.E.2d 147.11 See generally Turner v. Ga. River Network , 297 Ga. 306, 308, 773 S.E.2d 706 (2015) ("[T]he golden rule of statutory construction require......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Deal v. Coleman, Nos. S13A1084
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • November 18, 2013
    ...omitted). To that end, we must afford the statutory text its “plain and ordinary meaning,” City of Atlanta v. City of College Park, 292 Ga. 741, 744, 741 S.E.2d 147 (2013) (citation and punctuation omitted), we must view the statutory text in the context in which it appears, Hendry v. Hendr......
  • In re , Nos. A13A0507
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • October 21, 2013
    ...(k), effective July 1, 1995); Ga. L. 2004, p. 161, § 1 (repealing former OCGA § 29–2–16). 14.City of Atlanta v. City of College Park, 292 Ga. 741, 741 S.E.2d 147 (2013) (Under the fundamental rules of statutory construction, an appellate court is required “to construe [a] statute according ......
  • Ga. Pac. Consumer Prods., LP v. Ratner, A17A1969, A17A1970
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 8, 2018
    ...and footnotes omitted.) Busch v. State , 271 Ga. 591, 592, 523 S.E.2d 21 (1999) ; see also City of Atlanta v. City of College Park , 292 Ga. 741, 744, 741 S.E.2d 147 (2013) (when a term is undefined in a statute, "the cardinal rule is to glean the intent of the legislature") (citation omitt......
  • Amazing Amusements Grp., Inc. v. Wilson, A19A0991
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • October 30, 2019
    ...is predicated is invalid.") (punctuation omitted).9 See OCGA § 50-27-76 (b).10 (Punctuation omitted.) City of Atlanta , 292 Ga. at 744, 741 S.E.2d 147.11 See generally Turner v. Ga. River Network , 297 Ga. 306, 308, 773 S.E.2d 706 (2015) ("[T]he golden rule of statutory construction require......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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