Did you just relocate to Georgia with your company?
Financial, Tax, and Lifestyle Tips for Corporate Professionals
Financial & Tax
Whether your company has decided to move its headquarters or operations
to Georgia, or asked you to move to their Georgia office, there are likely a myriad of questions running through your mind. Where will I live? How are
the schools? What’s the cost of living difference? Who are the best doctors? And on and on. There are a number of financial considerations as well, some of which may not be top of mind. Here are a few tips to help make the financial transition to Georgia as smooth as possible, and avoid some unexpected turns.
Understand Georgia’s Income Tax Structure
Georgia’s income tax rate is currently 5.75%. If this is higher than the state you were previously residing in, depending upon how much advance notice you are given, it may make sense to recognize some income before you move, such as taking capital gains in your portfolio or exercising stock options. Certain states have recapture rules whereby if you earned income while working in State A, but move to State B when that income is actually paid out to you, State A may argue they have claim to their share of the tax burden. You should consult with a CPA familiar with both Georgia and your prior home state before you make a big income recognition decision.
Your take-home paycheck, assuming the same salary, may be higher or lower than your prior paycheck given the difference in state tax rates, so do some quick math before you sign your relocation and cost of living adjustment package. You may need to negotiate a higher salary to keep pace with your projected after-tax living expenses.
Finally, Georgia offers tax credits which are governmental incentives aimed at fostering specific business activities, such as low income housing development, and our booming film and entertainment production. Purchasing these state tax credits at a discount from a reputable company can help lower your income tax burden, so work with a local CPA or financial advisor to see what tax credits would benefit your personal situation. Buying tax credits makes a lot of sense for most people who pay quarterly income taxes in Georgia, or have big income years.
Cost of Living and Education
Cost of living is often a major factor in one’s relocation package from their company. In addition to knowing how much more housing and recreation may (or may not) cost, consider the cost of the private or public school system.
Tuition can be a substantial budgetary item for any family, and if you’ve never had to pay it before, you certainly need to plan ahead for how these bills will get paid (more salary, use of bonus each year, savings, etc.) What your education expenses may be could influence what part of town you live in, therefore how much house you buy, and therefore your mortgage payment. Families sending their children to private school pay tuition bills averaging $11,000+ annually for elementary school and $18,000+ annually for high school. Education expenses are major cash flow considerations, so understand how education expenses could impact your long-term financial plan.
Consider Georgia’s Path2College 529 Savings Plan
While saving for college is a major goal for a lot of working families, and there are numerous quality plans to choose from, there are tax benefits to funding Georgia’s 529 plan for Georgia residents. Married couples in Georgia can take a tax deduction on their Georgia income tax return up to $8,000 per child. Single parents can deduct the first $4,000 they deposit into Georgia’s 529 plan each year, and you have until April 15th of the following year to make your contribution for the prior calendar year. Review the investment options too – Georgia does have age-based asset allocation investment strategies which can be a good option for those who don’t want to worry about managing the investments in their 529 plan. The aggressive managed age-based track will have more stocks throughout the years than the managed age-based track which holds more bonds. There is also a guaranteed investment option which pays an interest rate of between 1% and 3% annually. If you do rollover your existing plan to Georgia’s plan, keep in mind you are only allowed one rollover every 12 months. Finally, if you have children in high school, you may need to reconsider in-state vs. out-of-state college tuition, as your residency has now changed. Georgia’s HOPE scholarship is very attractive for Georgia residents attending in-state public universities here. To read more visit www.gafutures.org.
Update Your Will
Estate tax and probate matters vary from state to state. It’s important that your will properly reflect the state you are a resident of. If you get relocated, your will needs to be updated and possibly amended to comply with Georgia laws. Probate is typically not a big issue or expense here. So unless you are planning to keep property outside of Georgia, such as your former residence, a revocable trust may not be necessary. The same updating guidance holds true for your financial and health care powers of attorney, as these forms and statutory provisions need to comply with Georgia’s rules. Of course if you don’t have your estate planning documents in place, use this as an opportunity to button up this part of your financial plan!
Your investment strategy may also need some fine tuning. If you own municipal bonds in your portfolio that are tax-exempt from your original state, they may not be in Georgia so you may want to swap them out with Georgia municipal bonds. In Georgia your capital gains (in non-retirement accounts), interest and dividend income is taxable, so consult with a CPA or financial advisor to understand investment taxes so you can adjust your portfolio holdings if necessary. While we don’t advocate letting taxes drive investment strategy, it is prudent to be tax aware.
Ask for Referrals
Ask your new coworkers or neighbors for referrals. After reading this article you may be looking for new tax, financial, and/or legal advisors. One of the best ways to find a qualified professional is to ask trusted friends or colleagues in a similar job type: “Who have you had a good experience working with on your financial planning?”
The cost of housing varies significantly depending on where you live in metro Atlanta.
ITP (Inside the Perimeter) neighborhoods in Sandy Springs and Brookhaven have been enjoying new popularity with home buyers, largely due to a shorter commute to work and new/updated construction. The median price of a single-family home in Sandy Springs ITP reflects this trend; it was reported to be $860,000 which is up 23 percent in 2019 over the same period one year ago.
Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood has Atlanta’s priciest homes. According to a September 2018 story in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the average home sale price in Buckhead is $1.1 million.
Since Atlanta has plenty of suburbs with lower-priced homes, families can find three- and four-bedroom houses for lower prices, generally ranging from $250,000 - $650,000. The commute time to many businesses will be longer, much longer depending upon how far OTP (Outside the Perimeter) you live, if your office is ITP. Another trade-off of living OTP is many high quality public schools are located there, so a family’s education budget can be much lower.
Costs to Commute
Like anywhere, the costs of commuting will vary based on whether you own a car vs. ride-sharing and the length of time you are driving and parking.
A study by the transportation firm INRIX Inc. shows metro Atlanta motorists paid an estimated $11,578 per motorist in 2017 – the eighth-highest cost among 30 U.S. cities studied. Parking, for example, made up a third of the total cost of vehicle ownership. On average, drivers spent more than $3,000 a year on all parking-related costs. The national annual average cost of driving was $10,288.
The morning rush hour in Atlanta starts as early as 4 a.m., and it can last as late as 10 a.m., but the worst of it begins around 6 or 7 a.m. In the evening, you can expect the worst traffic from 3:30 p.m. to as late as 7:30 p.m.
Tip - Get a Traffic App
The best way to find out how bad the traffic is before you leave home or work is by using a traffic app. The WSB-TV traffic app has real-time information about the roads, or you can use Waze to find out what your best route is. Waze uses crowd sourced data from drivers out on the road to help you find the quickest way to your destination, and it will reroute you if it finds a better way once you are on the road. It can also help you avoid any issues that increase traffic problems, such as accidents or road work.
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
Named after two former Atlanta mayors, the airport is the largest in the world – in terms of flights and passengers. That’s because it’s the hub for Delta Airlines. It has direct flights to most US cities and more than 75 international destinations in 50 countries, making business and vacation travel easier than most airports. The airport is a two-hour flight or less to roughly 80 percent of the US population.
The airport is located seven miles south of downtown Atlanta. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) provides train and bus service to metro Atlanta. MARTA’s Airport Station connects to Hartsfield-Jackson at the west end of the Domestic Terminal between Domestic Terminal North and Domestic Terminal South baggage claim areas. For more information, visit www.itsmarta.com.
Here is a fact sheet about the airport: https://www.atl.com/about-atl/atl-factsheet/
Atlanta’s Thriving Foodie Scene
For all foodies, Atlanta has a flourishing food scene. Just about any neighborhood of the metropolitan area will have unique, locally-owned restaurants.
Each October, the Taste of Atlanta is the city’s must-do food, wine, beer and cocktail festival that showcases the diversity of the city’s restaurants. Over three days, more than 90 neighborhood favorites will show off their most craveable dishes, the hottest local chefs will strut their stuff on four live demo stages, and patrons can sample craft beers, wine and creative cocktails. Taste of Atlanta patrons will enjoy:
- Good eats from some of the Best Atlanta Restaurants
- Live cooking demos and conversations on The Chef’s Table stage
- Hands on cooking classes in The Kitchen Workshop
- Home Plate Stage with interactive cooking demonstrations and hands on activities for the whole family.
For those seeking more information about food and restaurants in Atlanta, here are some news stories, websites and blogs to check out:
Is Atlanta the South’s new foodie capital?
Here is the Zagat guide to best food in Atlanta:
Check out the Atlanta Journal-Constitution restaurant blog for a summary of new developments:
Family and Cultural Activities
Atlanta has professional sports teams in baseball, football, basketball and soccer, including the 2018 Major League Soccer champion Atlanta United. The Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United play their home games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (which hosted Super Bowl 53). The Atlanta Braves play at SunTrust Park and the Atlanta Hawks play at State Farm Arena.
Atlanta is also home to the College Football Hall of Fame and hosts the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in December.
Atlanta has plenty of activities for families and children of all ages. Here are some of the top family activities in Atlanta:
The world’s largest aquarium, it houses more than 100,000 aquatic creatures, including the largest in the ocean - whale sharks. You can see rare albino alligators and watch as trainers interact with California sea lions.
High Museum of Art
Known for its works by 19th-century French masters and an extensive collection of 19th- and 20th-century American art. There is also a significant collection of European paintings and decorative art, and newer additions include modern and contemporary art, photography, and African art. The museum forms part of the Robert W. Woodruff Arts Center and hosts an annual film series featuring foreign, independent, and classic cinema.
The World of Coca-Cola
Illustrates the history and progress of the world-famous drink in entertaining ways that will please all. You can sample over 100 different beverages and visit the Vault of the Secret Formula.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
Two landmarks in downtown Alanta are now protected as a National Historic Site honoring civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. They include his birthplace at 501 Auburn Avenue, which dates from 1895, and the Ebenezer Baptist Church on Jakson Street, in which he and his father were ministers.
Center for Civil and Human Rights
Atlanta’s place in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s is marked by a beautifully conceived interpretation center/museum that places this epic struggle into the greater worldwide movement for human rights.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden
Offers a lovely space with a variety of well laid out gardens, including formal flower beds and majestic trees that frame the urban landscape of Midtown Atlanta.
Offers memorable encounters with more than 1,000 animals from around the world. Zoo highlights include giant pandas, including Ya Lun and Xi Lun, a set of twins born to Lun on September 3, 2016; one of North America’s largest zoological populations of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians.
The Center for Puppetry Arts
A hands-on museum with a large collection of puppets from around the world. Some of the displays include Chinese hand puppets and African rod puppets.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Portrays the nature and environment of Georgia. Some of the most eye-catching exhibits at the museum are the huge dinosaur statues at the entrance and the dinosaur skeletons in the Great Hall. It’s also home to Atlanta’s biggest movie screen!
Vacation and Weekend Destinations Within Driving Distance
Vacations spots on The Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico are accessible within just a few hours drive. Beaches on Florida’s east coast, such as Ponte Vedra, just north of Jacksonville, or Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, are only a 5-6 hour drive. These beaches are considered among the most pristine on the East Coast and have excellent accommodations. And if you want to drive south and spend time on the Gulf of Mexico, drive time is about the same to Florida’s Panhandle.
For those looking to spend vacation time at Disney World, Orlando is approximately an eight-hour drive from metro Atlanta and can easily be done in one day.
For hikers, the Appalachian Trail travels 78.6 miles in Georgia, beginning at the southernmost blaze at Springer Mountain. Departing Springer Mountain, the Appalachian Trail follows its iconic, white trail blazes through the southern Appalachian Mountains, meandering through North Georgia’s rolling Blue Ridge Mountains and exploring some of this state’s most beautiful terrain.
For those seeking an urban getaway, it’s roughly a four-hour drive each to Charlotte and Nashville.
We know that every state considers themselves the best in the nation, but we really do feel that Georgia has something to offer everyone. From the beautiful and historic coastline, to the winding trails of the Appalachian Mountains, all the way to the excitement of city life in Atlanta. There’s always something to see and do, and wonderful people to meet. Now that you’re here, we hope you’ll reach out with any questions. We’re happy to help you feel at home. From all of us here at Brightworth, welcome!
This information provided is for informational purposes only. It has been derived from sources believed to be factual and reliable and is subject to change based on changes to the tax code and other laws and regulations. The information is provided as a guide to assist you in your personal financial planning. It should not be construed as specific tax or legal advice. Please consult a tax professional, attorney, or other financial professional with questions about your specific situation.