Seattle introduces poll tax for big business to support disadvantaged communities Seattle introduces poll tax for big business to support disadvantaged communities

Seattle introduces poll tax for big business to support disadvantaged communities
22 May 2018

Seattle's city council has passed a measure requiring companies with revenues of more than US$20 million a year to pay an annual tax of US$275 per employee in order to support disadvantaged communities.

According to USA Today, the decision comes despite strong opposition from Amazon — the city's largest employer — and other big businesses including Starbucks. Amazon had threatened to stop construction of its newest Seattle tower block and to pull out of leasing another.

The move is expected to bring the city in another US$45 million in tax a year in order to fund the building of low-cost housing and aid the homeless. The original proposal had called for a US$500 a head tax on all Seattle businesses generating more than US$20 million a year in gross revenues, but the figure was reduced to only $275 – although it still amounts to the largest poll tax in US history.

Amazon vice president Drew Herdener said in a statement: "We are disappointed by today’s City Council decision. We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here."

But the online retailer backed away from previous threats to cancel construction of a 17-story office tower block to house 8,000 new employees. It also said it would continue plans to lease the Rainier Square skyscraper and does not appear to be scaling back its hiring ambitions in the city either.

 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.

Seattle's city council has passed a measure requiring companies with revenues of more than US$20 million a year to pay an annual tax of US$275 per employee in order to support disadvantaged communities.

According to USA Today, the decision comes despite strong opposition from Amazon — the city's largest employer — and other big businesses including Starbucks. Amazon had threatened to stop construction of its newest Seattle tower block and to pull out of leasing another.

The move is expected to bring the city in another US$45 million in tax a year in order to fund the building of low-cost housing and aid the homeless. The original proposal had called for a US$500 a head tax on all Seattle businesses generating more than US$20 million a year in gross revenues, but the figure was reduced to only $275 – although it still amounts to the largest poll tax in US history.

Amazon vice president Drew Herdener said in a statement: "We are disappointed by today’s City Council decision. We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here."

But the online retailer backed away from previous threats to cancel construction of a 17-story office tower block to house 8,000 new employees. It also said it would continue plans to lease the Rainier Square skyscraper and does not appear to be scaling back its hiring ambitions in the city either.

 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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