Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lawless In Seattle

Did you hear that Seattle has a new income tax?

Sort of. Eventually. But maybe not.

The tax rate is 2.25 percent and will tag you if you are (1) single and earn more than $250,000 per year or (2) married and earn more than $500,000.

This is big-bucks land, and we normally would not dwell on this except…

Washington state has no income tax.

Let us get this right: Seattle wants to have an income tax in a state that has no income tax. Washington state considered an income tax back in the 1930s, but the courts found it unconstitutional.

You or I would live within the Seattle city limits … why?

Surely there are nice suburbs we could call home. Heck, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos do not live in Seattle; they live in the suburbs.

There appear to be legal issues with this tax.

The state constitution, for example, requires taxes to be uniform within a class of property. The pro-tax side questions whether income is “property.”

The anti-tax side provides the Power Inc v Huntley case (1951), wherein the Washington Supreme Court stated:
It is no longer subject to question in this court that income is property.”
Must be something cryptic about the wording.

Then there is a law that bans Washington cities from taxing net income.

The pro-tax side argues that they are not taxing “net” income. No sir, they are taxing “adjusted” or “modified” or “found-under-the-cushions” income instead.

The anti-tax side says: seriously?

Then you have the third issue that Washington cities must have state authority to enact taxes.

The pro-tax side says it can do this under their Licenses and Permits authority.

RCW 35A.82.020
Licenses and permits—Excises for regulation.
A code city may exercise the authority authorized by general law for any class of city to license and revoke the same for cause, to regulate, make inspections and to impose excises for regulation or revenue in regard to all places and kinds of business, production, commerce, entertainment, exhibition, and upon all occupations, trades and professions and any other lawful activity: PROVIDED, That no license or permit to engage in any such activity or place shall be granted to any who shall not first comply with the general laws of the state.

No such license shall be granted to continue for longer than a period of one year from the date thereof and no license or excise shall be required where the same shall have been preempted by the state, nor where exempted by the state, including, but not limited to, the provisions of RCW 36.71.090 and chapter 73.04 RCW relating to veterans.

I am not making this up, folks.

Here is the mayor:
This legislation will face a legal challenge.”
And green is a color.
But let me tell you something: we welcome that legal challenge. We welcome that fight.”
Then why pick a fight, Floyd?
… lowering the property tax burden …, addressing the homelessness crisis; providing affordable housing, education and transit; … creating green jobs … meeting carbon reduction goals.”
Got it: verbigeration, the new college major. It will get you to that $15 minimum wage. At least until those jobs go away because they are too expensive.

Speaking of expense: who is bankrolling this issue while it is decided in court? Has the city banked so much money that a guaranteed legal battle is worth it?

If we need to pack the courts, will you be there with me?” thundered a councilperson.

Pack the courts? Should we bring bats too?  

The pro-tax side wants to be sued, hoping that a judge will legislate from the bench.

Needless to say, the anti-tax side is resisting, with calls for “civil disobedience.”

With exhortations not to file returns.

The state chair of the Republican party is encouraging
“… non-compliance, non-violent and non-paying”
Sounds almost Gandhi-esque.

It appears that neither side has any intention to observe – heck, even acknowledge – any pretense of law.

I am at a loss to see how this is good for anybody.

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