Seattle business leaders decried last week’s City Council decision to tax big companies to help fund homeless services and build affordable housing. The city expects to raise up to $75 million annually from its 500 largest companies such as Amazon and Starbucks.
All businesses that gross $20 million or more would be liable for a yearly $275 tax on each full-time worker, a compromise figure lower than the originally sought $500 per head.
Seattle ranks third in the nation for homelessness, and the taxation decision comes amid fierce debate over the question of who must shoulder the cost of helping those whose households don’t mirror the city’s economic success.
Amazon briefly stalled construction plans for Block 18, a 17-story office complex, putting into question 7,000 Seattle jobs connected to the project, Reuters reported, as the company awaited the council’s final decision. Amazon had already scheduled later this year plans to choose and begin building elsewhere its HQ2, a second North American headquarters that could generate up to 50,000 jobs and generate investment of $5 billion.
Seattle’s tax on jobs comes less than a year after its council unanimously voted for a 2.25 percent income tax—in a state that has none—on those living within Seattle’s city limits who make more than $250,000 per year. A King County judge ruled against the legality of the tax four months and four lawsuits later, but in December the city appealed to the Washington state Supreme Court.
Businesses facing taxes for each job they provide could follow Susan Hutchison’s advice about the city income tax last year: Just don’t pay it. Then chairwoman of the Washington State Republican Party, Hutchison encouraged Seattle residents not to file the tax: “We’re urging civil disobedience,” she said. “Noncompliance, nonviolent and nonpaying,” Crosscut reported. —R.H.