Seattle officials unveil plan to tax Amazon, other high-paying companies to fund affordable housing

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant declares victory in the November 2019 election. (Photo via KshamaSawant.Org)

Seattle City Councilmembers unveiled draft legislation Wednesday that details their plan to tax the city’s highest paying businesses to fund affordable housing. Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales are co-sponsoring the ordinance.

  • The tax would apply to companies with annual payroll expenses of $7 million or more. About 825 corporations in Seattle fit the bill. The legislation introduced this week would apply a 0.7 percent tax on the compensation those companies pay to employees earning more than $150,000 annually. That’s down from the 1.7 percent tax Sawant described when she first announced her proposal in February.
  • Most of the $300 million annual revenue raised by the tax would go toward affordable housing and services. About 25 percent would fund environmentally friendly home upgrades. The tax would take effect Jan. 1, 2022.
  • At the state level, lawmakers are pushing for a bill that authorizes King County — home to Seattle and other cities — to enact its own payroll tax to fund solutions to the region’s homelessness crisis. One point of debate in that bill is whether it should preempt cities from passing their own taxes, like the one drafted by Sawant and Morales. The state legislative session ends March 12 so time is running out for the regional tax plan.

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