Seattle’s small businesses speak up amid new tax proposal

Mar 19, 2018, 2:08 PM | Updated: 6:02 pm

Facing yet another cost of doing business in the city, Seattle’s small businesses are urging the city council not to pass another tax.

“I see there is a huge disconnect between what the city council understands about what a small business goes through, how a small business is run, and the challenges and burdens that we face …” Taylor Hoang told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “I feel that there is a big disconnect between what they believe and what reality is.”

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Hoang is the co-chair of Seattle’s small business advisory council and owner of the Pho Cyclo Cafe. She recently signed a letter sent to the city council — along with 252 other small business owners. The council is considering a report from the Progressive Revenue Task Force. That report recommends an employee hours tax — also known as a head tax — among other funding options for homelessness programs.

“Homeless is an issue we all face in Seattle,” Hoang said. “Small businesses face it on their streets, in front of the storefronts on a regular basis, every single day. We are aware of it and feel the burden. We want to be a part of that solution. But we don’t believe taxing small businesses to deal with this is the right way. Especially if the money is going toward a plan that we have no clue about.”

Sincerely, Seattle’s small businesses

The letter addresses a $395 “skin-in-the-game” fee proposed by the task force that all businesses would pay. It states that the “progressive” tax is actually regressive, harming businesses and threatening the jobs they create. It argues that the funding solutions to the homelessness crisis should be regional; not targeted at the city’s businesses. The owners also write that the city has no plans for the new tax dollars.

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The letter states:

We are disappointed that once again small business leaders were never consulted for input, facts or information about the real challenges we face …

Taxing businesses for employing people, is not a viable and sustainable part of this solutions.

More than 300 Seattle businesses signed the letter since it went to the council, Hoang said. That is more than the 80 that signed a similar letter in 2017.

“Small businesses, we have what I call, ‘regulatory fatigue,’” Hoang said. “We’ve been hit so many different ways; so many different regulations.”

Hoang further argues that the city is making a lot of decisions based on the current booming economy. That is fiscally irresponsible, she says.

“During a downturn we are going to lose that revenue. We need to be fiscally responsible … we can’t just keep depending on business to come in and pay taxes and kick in their share every single time the city has its hand out for another revenue stream.”

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