Seattle headcount tax repealed after protests from big business Seattle headcount tax repealed after protests from big business

Seattle headcount tax repealed after protests from big business
26 Jun 2018

After a backlash from businesses, Seattle has repealed a tax on large companies such as Amazon and Starbucks that was meant to combat a growing homelessness crisis.

According to KomoNews, the tax was proposed as a progressive revenue source aimed at tackling one of the nation's highest homelessness problems. But Amazon, Starbucks and others sharply criticised the tax as misguided, and many worried that Amazon and others would leave the city. Amazon even temporarily halted construction planning on a new high-rise building near its Seattle headquarters in protest.

In a statement released after the vote, Amazon vice president Drew Herdener said the council's decision was "the right decision for the region's economic prosperity" adding that the company was "deeply committed to being part of the solution to end homelessness in Seattle."

Seattle spent US$68 million on homelessness last year and plans to spend even more this year, although the tax would have raised an extra US$48 million annually. A one-night count in January revealed more than 12,000 homeless people in Seattle and the surrounding region, a 4% increase on the previous year. The region saw 169 homeless deaths last year.

But in the end, city leaders underestimated the frustration and anger from residents, businesses and others over the tax increase. There was also, according to KomoNews, a growing sense that the homelessness problem appeared to be getting worse, despite the city already spending millions to combat it.

The tax would have resulted in companies being charged about US$275 per full-time worker each year to pay for affordable housing and homeless services. It would have affected nearly 600 businesses, generating at least US$20 million in gross revenues, and would have taken effect next year.

 Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

After a backlash from businesses, Seattle has repealed a tax on large companies such as Amazon and Starbucks that was meant to combat a growing homelessness crisis.

According to KomoNews, the tax was proposed as a progressive revenue source aimed at tackling one of the nation's highest homelessness problems. But Amazon, Starbucks and others sharply criticised the tax as misguided, and many worried that Amazon and others would leave the city. Amazon even temporarily halted construction planning on a new high-rise building near its Seattle headquarters in protest.

In a statement released after the vote, Amazon vice president Drew Herdener said the council's decision was "the right decision for the region's economic prosperity" adding that the company was "deeply committed to being part of the solution to end homelessness in Seattle."

Seattle spent US$68 million on homelessness last year and plans to spend even more this year, although the tax would have raised an extra US$48 million annually. A one-night count in January revealed more than 12,000 homeless people in Seattle and the surrounding region, a 4% increase on the previous year. The region saw 169 homeless deaths last year.

But in the end, city leaders underestimated the frustration and anger from residents, businesses and others over the tax increase. There was also, according to KomoNews, a growing sense that the homelessness problem appeared to be getting worse, despite the city already spending millions to combat it.

The tax would have resulted in companies being charged about US$275 per full-time worker each year to pay for affordable housing and homeless services. It would have affected nearly 600 businesses, generating at least US$20 million in gross revenues, and would have taken effect next year.

 Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

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