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Seattle’s income tax all about ‘being more fair’

Demonstrators stand together in Seattle in support of an income tax on Seattle's top earners. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The unanimous approval of an income tax by the Seattle City Council has left some wondering how a city can get away with targeting people within specific income brackets.

The tax, if it isn’t challenged in court, applies a 2.25 percent tax on individuals earning more than $250,000 per year, or married couples earning a combined $500,000 a year. According to the city, it will raise approximately $140 million a year.

So why would someone want to earn more if the city is just going to take it away?

KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney says the system is more fair, especially when compared to the state’s current tax system, which is one of the most regressive in the U.S. According to supporters of the income tax, the state’s tax system unfairly targets those who make less, because they have to pay a higher percentage of taxes.

Ultimately, a state income tax would be better for those concerned about a regressive system, Tom points out.

“It’s about being fair,” he said.

Of course, the income tax will likely be challenged. Many say the measure violates state law and the state’s Constitution. Washington State GOP Chairman Susan Hutchison said the council’s action is “illegal,” “unconstitutional,” and “against the will of the people.”

The Freedom Foundation has already announced it is prepared to challenge the tax.

The council approved the measure 9-0. The tax, according to its supporters, would help the city move away from regressive taxes like property taxes while financing priorities such as homelessness and offsetting federal budgets.

The tax doesn’t apply to someone’s entire income, only the amount made over the $250,000 level. So, for example, an income of $300,000 would be taxed for $50,000 of that — the city would receive $1,125.

A major concern is the fact that someone earning more than $250,000 a year in the city would have to pay a city income tax and still pay state sales tax.

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