Kshama Sawant wants city to double proposed head tax

by: BY KIPP ROBERTSON Updated:

If Amazon can afford to spend billions on a second headquarters, it can surely afford to pay a head tax.

That was the sentiment from Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who wants the proposed tax on the wealthiest 10 percent of businesses in the city to be increased from $100 per employee to $200.

Council members Mike O’Brien and Kirsten Harris-Talley proposed a head tax for approximately 2,200 businesses who gross receipts value is at least $5 million per year. They say a business would pay an additional 5 cents an hour per employee to help “alleviate Seattle’s homelessness crisis.”

The two proposed the tax during the city’s budget process. If approved, the tax would have an effective date of early 2019. It would raise between $20 million and $25 million each year, according to O’Brien.

But why not up the ante? Sawant says.

Assuming the tax was increased from $100 to $200 per employee, Sawant says the city could raise at least $50 million a year. Amazon would pay about $8 million a year; not much when you consider the company’s yearly revenue, she says.

“That is less than six parts in thousand of one percent of their 2016 revenue,” she said. She added the fractions are “so small, it doesn’t even make sense. “It’s 1/625th of the money they … intend to use to build a new campus.”

Sawant proposed increasing the tax on Election Day.

The company announced earlier this year that it would invest $5 billion and create as many as 50,000 jobs.

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If approved, the tax would fund affordable housing projects and emergency services.

There has been pushback from the business community. Many have voiced concern over the tax in a city that is already costly to operate in. Not every business is as wealthy as Amazon, after all.

RELATED: Reading between the lines of HQ2

“I urge you to abandon the idea of a head tax,” Bartell Drugs chair George Bartell wrote in a statement. “We are a significant employer here in Seattle and we reached a breaking point on the city-imposed fees and costs. Instead, I ask you to spend the money already raised for homelessness prudently and effectively and that you continue to partner with the significant number of non-profit organizations that are rallying to confront this issue.”

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