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Seattle makes first step to taking its income tax to Supreme Court

The City of Seattle has taken its first step in appealing its income tax case to the Washington State Supreme Court.

Documents signed Dec. 8, 2017 by attorneys with Pacifica Law Group — the firm representing the city — state that Seattle is seeking a review of its income tax case by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will now decide if it will take up the case or let it continue in King County Superior Court.

RELATED: What people outside Seattle should know about the city’s income tax

The city is being sued by four plaintiffs over its income tax. Seattle asked a King County Superior Court for a summary judgment for the lawsuits, but was denied in November. The summary judgment would have handed the city a win without pushing it further through the legal process. King County Superior Court Judge John Ruhl, however, ruled that the plaintiffs’ case challenging the income tax has merit. It is this ruling that the city is appealing.

Some have speculated that Seattle’s controversial tax would not make it to a higher court. But income tax proponents have always said they want their tax to be legally challenged and taken to the state Supreme Court. Their larger goal is to change the state’s legal understanding of income taxes. Proponents hope to achieve that through a ruling at Washington’s highest court.

The request for appeal to the Supreme Court comes one week after new Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said she supports an appeal, and wanted to discuss the matter with the city attorney before moving forward. Durkan told The Seattle Times that she was unclear if the city’s arguments could survive at the Supreme Court.

“I think it’s a long shot,” Durkan said. “I think under the current state of the law – both state law that prohibits cities from imposing income taxes as well as the constitutional provisions — will strike down our income tax law, but I think we have to find the answer to it.”

Seattle’s 2.25 percent income tax would apply to individuals making more than $250,000 or married couples making over $500,000. The city estimated the new tax would raise $140 million annually to pay for transit, housing, carbon reduction, and any federal money that is lost via threats from the Trump administration.

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