Seattle paid $50K preparing to pass its income tax

Dec 15, 2017, 12:27 PM
income tax...
(Alan Cleaver, Flickr)

The City of Seattle paid nearly $50,000 to outside consultants to prepare its income tax legislation before passing it.

The total from three invoices for legal services and economic consulting adds up to $49,475, according to bills dated in August. The bills were obtained by lawyers representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city’s income tax. An attorney representing one plaintiff provided them to MyNorthwest.

RELATED: New Eyman initiative would ban “all income taxes for all time”

The Seattle City Council unanimously passed an income tax on the city’s top earners in July. The invoices are for work that led up to that vote, such as drafting the ordinance for the tax, or preparing council members. The costs do not reflect the lawsuits that the city has faced since passing the tax.

The invoices include:

  • Smith & Lowney PLLC: $35,175
  • Economic Opportunity Institute: $49,475
  • Gibson Economics: $6,800

Seattle asked for a summary judgment in the case; it wanted a judge to decide that its income tax was legal on its face. But a judge ruled against the city. Seattle has appealed to the Supreme Court. Proponents of the income tax have always aimed for the Supreme Court ruling, hoping the legal understanding of income taxes in Washington can be changed.

Seattle income tax invoices

According to the invoice from the Economic Opportunity Institute, it charged the city to sub-contract with Smith & Lowney (a total of $35,175) and Gibson Economics (a total of $6,800). EOI also billed the city for: research; using its internal economist; and meetings with council members, staff and executive staff, including meeting preparation and follow-up. It charged $100 an hour for 75 hours of work.

RELATED: Experts say Seattle tax won’t push out rich residents

The Economic Opportunity Institute is a lobbying organization. Its mission, according to its website, is “to build an economy that works for everyone by advancing public policies that promote educational opportunity, good jobs, healthy families and workplaces, and a dignified retirement for all.”

One board member of EOI is John Gibson, of Gibson Economics, who is among the subcontractors. He was paid for consulting services.

Smith & Lowney is a local law firm that promotes itself as supporting environmental law enforcement, consumer protection, and community activism. It charged the city for: research; legislative and ordinance drafting; meetings with council members and committees; and preparing for interviews with the media. One such interview noted on an invoice was with King 5 regarding the income tax and anticipated lawsuits over it.

Smith & Lowney have been involved in efforts for a Washington income tax before. Specifically, 2010’s initiative 1098 that voters rejected with a 64 percent “no” vote.

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Seattle paid $50K preparing to pass its income tax