Grant County Commissioners Say No to County Income Taxes

The Grant County Council of Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to ban a county assessed income tax for residents of Grant County. In doing so, the county joins Moses Lake and several other Washington municipalities in opposing such a tax.

“We felt like we wanted to support this position (against local income taxes),” Grant County Commissioner for District 1 Danny Stone said. “And, we also wanted to kind of declare to the legislature, because there’s another bill coming up this year as well, to kind of steer local jurisdictions in that direction – to impose a local income tax, and we just wanted to anticipate that by saying, ‘Well, we’re not going to do that to our citizens.’ ”

Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform, an office of the Washington Policy Center, said the history of income tax proposals at the state level Washington has several jurisdictions adopting measures similar to the one the Grant County passed this week and Moses Lake passed August 24 of last year. The first incident is a 2019 Washington Court of Appeals case titled Kunath against the City of Seattle. In this case, Mercier said, the court did say that cash was good and could be subject to tax, but not progressive income tax i.e. in parentheses. Thus, the permanent ruling allows for a 1% income tax at the local, state and county levels.

“People think if they have an income tax it’s unconstitutional (in Washington). It’s just not the case, just a progressive income tax (is prohibited) because our constitution limits property taxes to the uniform and 1%, ”Mercier said.

Another area of ​​concern for those who oppose income tax is the submission of Washington Senate Bill 5554, tabled Dec. 17 by Senator Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle. This bill, if passed, would allow municipalities in Washington to levy a graduated personal or business income tax if they reduce amounts collected in other sources of tax revenue accordingly. Mercier said the bill is unlikely to pass given current support from the state legislature, and if passed it would likely face legal challenges similar to another recently passed tax.

“The other thing is that in the last session the (Washington State) legislature passed the capital gains tax. Again, arguably an unconstitutional tax, ”said Mercier.

A ruling on the capital gains tax law is expected to be made in a summary judgment hearing scheduled for Feb. 4 in Douglas County Superior Court. In this case, a September 25, 2018 letter from the IRS states that any capital gains tax is an income tax, by definition.

“Now we are waiting to see if the court plays with the attempts (of the supporters of income tax) or if the court does what it has done in the past and says, ‘No, you have to change the ( Washington) Constitution, “” said Mercier.

In a consultative election in November 2021, 61% of Washington voters said they wanted the 7% tax on capital gains over $ 250,000 set by SB 5096 earlier that year. be repealed.

Mercier said the Washington Policy Center, after examining the impact an income tax would have on the state’s economy, was not in favor of such a tax. He said the think tank believes such a move by Washington lawmakers would send potential employers looking for other places to expand.

A Dec. 9 presentation from the Washington Tax Structure Task Force said after various city halls statewide, the group found a lack of voter support for income tax assessments, but with a caution.

“Participants expressed support for wealthier Washingtonians to pay more taxes, but overall, participants had more concerns than support for a wealth tax,” the report said. “Participants expressed concern that a wealth tax would not be a stable tax base given the ease with which billionaires can leave the state.”

Stone said the county’s position on the income tax issue is simply that it’s not what the residents of Grant County want, so the commissioners intend to stick to their voters.

“I think it was a simple and healthy decision (to pass the resolution) and a vote of confidence in the perspective our citizens have when they vote on these matters. When they see something coming out of Olympia, and they know there’s another bill coming up this year, trying to push an income tax, ”Stone said. “I think sometimes people are like, ‘OK, what’s going to happen? And we just want to give confidence that this is not a direction in which we are going. ”

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