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Lawmakers seek tax break for Georgia songwriters

It's an effort to stoke the state's music industry

ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers are pitching a tax break for songwriters, in an effort to jump start the state’s music industry.  Some officials think it’s a natural fit with the state’s thriving movie-making industry.  

From Ray Charles to REM to Outkast and beyond, Georgia’s music footprint is substantial. But its music industry is a step or three behind cities like Los Angeles or Nashville, says state Rep Matt Dollar (R-Marietta).

"We’re trying to compete with Nashville. We’re not doing a very good job," Dollar said. "So it’s not just about attracting and fostering the industry but really about retaining a lot of the talent that we have."

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Dollar is behind a bill that would create a state income tax exemption for the royalties income of songwriters.  Royalties are the payments made to songwriters whenever their copyrighted songs get public airplay.  In Tennessee, Nashville songwriters pay no state income tax on royalties because Tennessee has no income tax.  

Georgia is better known for its movie making, an industry stoked by a state tax credit package,  Georgia also has a substantial music industry, organically grown in Atlanta’s hip hop community.  Dollar says HB 343 would build on that – and perhaps give to musicians what Georgia has given to movie makers.  

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"We’ve had tremendous gains in the film industry. And part of that ecosystem involves music. So we want to increase the music industry in Georgia," he said.

If it passes, the tax break would go away six years from now, giving lawmakers a chance to see if the tax break for musicians actually worked before extending it indefinitely.

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