Seattle’s gun tax brought in much less than expected in its first year.
City leaders expected the tax to bring in between $300,000 and $500,000 a year when they approved it. But it brought in just over $100,000 in 2016.
The city had long refused to reveal the dollar amount, citing privacy concerns of people who pay the tax.
“Given the limited number of quarterly returns filed, the City believes releasing any information at this time about the number of filers or amount reported would risk revealing identifying taxpayer information, which is protected from disclosure per Seattle Municipal Code and state law,” the city said in response to a records request.
Earlier this year, the city revealed the tax had brought in less than expected, but would only say it was less than $200,000. The numbers released this week come after a judge ordered the city to release the data following a public records battle with TheGunMag.
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A lawsuit challenging the tax failed last week when the state Supreme Court ruled it was legal. In an 8-1 decision, the justices agreed with the city’s argument that the tax is different from a regulation.
“Historically, there has been a difference between regulations as such and taxation,” Attorney Phil Talmadge told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “The Supreme Court has had a protocol for deciding what is a regulatory process, or a fee, and what constitutes a tax. They applied that analysis pretty faithfully in this opinion. Like it or dislike it, that’s the way they’ve done it.”
Seattle passed its gun tax in August 2015. It was aimed at funding gun-violence prevention, research and other programs to mitigate the public costs of gun-related crimes. The effort was spearheaded by Councilmember Tim Burgess. It places a $25 tax on guns sold in Seattle, and up to 5 cents on each round of ammunition.
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