Seattle’s ‘Autonomous Zone’ Is Dead, But Its Amazon Tax Has Come Roaring Back to Life
Seattle is back in the business of taxing big business two years after it passed, then repealed, its controversial ‘Amazon Tax.’
On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted 7-2 to approve the “JumpStart Seattle” tax, which taxes the wages paid by businesses to employees making $150,000 or more a year. The tax applies to companies with at least $7 million in annual payroll and is projected to raise $214 million annually.
“We are in the midst of a health and economic crisis that even a strong economy like Seattle may not be able to recover from quickly,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who sponsored the legislation, in a press release following the vote. “JumpStart Seattle will do just that—jump-start our recovery with a relief plan that centers workers, small businesses, and our most vulnerable community members.”
Provided Mayor Jenny Durkan signs the tax into law, it will go into effect next year.
In addition to the tax, the city council also passed a spending plan Monday which would allocate next year’s JumpStart revenue to replenishing any money the city borrows this year from its emergency fund. Starting in 2022, revenue from the tax will go to affordable housing, small business aid, and economic development programs.
The JumpStart tax is the final chapter in the long saga of the Seattle city government’s attempt to tax large employers in the city.
Back in 2018, socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant proposed a $500-per-employee head tax, which she coined the “Amazon Tax,” on companies with revenues of over $20 million. That tax was supposed to raise $75 million a year.
The proposal attracted united opposition from Seattle’s business community and a number of labor groups, who argued that it would drive jobs and business out of the city. Seattle-headquartered Amazon announced a halt to one of its downtown construction projects prior to a vote on the tax.
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