Downtown Seattle Association CEO: Council’s Amazon Tax is ‘bad policy’

Aug 17, 2020, 11:32 AM

amazon tax...

Amazon's downtown Seattle headquarters. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Seattle City Council has passed a modified version of the so-called “Amazon Tax,” which is a tax on the payrolls of businesses with least a $7 million payroll that taxes salary levels at various percents, going up to a 2.4% tax on employees making over $400,000. The Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) is asking city council to repeal their big business tax, arguing it will compound an already desperate economic situation in the city.

“This tax that the council passed affects not just Amazon, but nearly 800 companies in Seattle,” said Jon Scholes, president and CEO of DSA. “We think there’s many more that are going to suggest that they’re looking for locations outside of the city if the council leaves this tax on the books.”

Scholes says DSA has been sending warning signals to the council for months prior to the adoption of the big business tax.

“I think Amazon’s recent suggestion that they’ll be moving jobs outside of the city is one more warning signal, and we hope the city council will take it seriously and will repeal this tax before we see more companies follow suit,” he said.

Taxes at a city level, Scholes says, are “just bad policy.”

“They put Seattle on an economic island, and they give every incentive for Seattle companies to move their jobs elsewhere,” he said. “We’ve supported a regional business tax, and did so as recently as January, when the Legislature was considering a measure to invest in homeless housing and services with a regional measure that didn’t isolate Seattle. But we don’t think it’s good policy, either in a pandemic or not, to isolate Seattle economically and make it more expensive to locate jobs in our city.”

Companies, and not just Amazon, will decide to move elsewhere, which Scholes says is the “logical decision.”

“We’ve got lots of trends now that are really against locating jobs in our city, we don’t need another one,” he added.

Due to the rise in telecommuting during the pandemic, there’s already a shift in jobs away from the downtown core. How does Scholes know that Amazon’s proposal to relocate is due to the tax and not about putting offices closer to where people live?

“Well, because they and hundreds of other companies have expressed their strong opposition to this tax measure and have done so for the last three to four months,” Scholes said. “But the city council hasn’t listened to those concerns, and they rushed into adopting this tax without a lot of thought, without any analysis of the economic implications, and just proceeded.”

“So there’s certainly a lot of challenges with work from home for urban neighborhoods like downtown and others in Seattle,” he added. “And our point is it’s going to be difficult to get a lot of those jobs back, and we don’t need to give companies any more reasons not to bring them back. Because right now we’ve got hundreds of small businesses downtown that are suffering because those workers that they’re used to seeing Monday through Friday are not there.”

Flower shops, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars in downtown Seattle are missing their usual customer base right now, but Scholes worries it could get even worse for small businesses.

“The message that our city is sending to the big employers is we’re all right if you take your jobs elsewhere,” Scholes said. “And the ramifications of that are lots of small businesses that are going to continue to hurt.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross


Travis Mayfield

Mayfield: An open letter to Washington State Republicans

Dear Washington State Republicans, I am begging you to find a way forward for a better place for all of us to live.

16 hours ago

Seattle city council drug ordinance...

Travis Mayfield

Mayfield: What happened with Seattle City Council drug ordinance vote?

What the actual heck did the Seattle City Council just do in regards to the drug ordinance that failed to pass on Tuesday?

2 days ago

movie theaters...

Travis Mayfield

Mayfield: Movie theaters could soon become unaffordable for some

It was heartbreaking to watch audiences flee during the pandemic and movie theaters close. I'm glad many were able to access relief money.

3 days ago

AI misinformation...

Dave Ross

Ross: Tech companies need to be held liable for AI misinformation

Once a few AI CEOs find themselves going to jail for 11 years for misinformation, I imagine the industry will quickly start policing itself.

4 days ago

patty murray debt ceiling...

Dave Ross

Ross: Patty Murray vows to restore social services as debt ceiling bill passes

This is a guest commentary from Senator Patty Murray. She was presiding over the Senate as they passed the debt ceiling bill last night.

7 days ago

irs funding debt limit bill...

Dave Ross

Ross: IRS funding lost in debt limit bill, tax cheats rejoice

The debt limit bill passed in a classic bi-partisan compromise, and I was actually impressed by last night’s debate.

8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Downtown Seattle Association CEO: Council’s Amazon Tax is ‘bad policy’