Amazon Not Thrilled With Seattle's New 'Amazon Tax'

Tax on city's largest employers will bring in about $45M a year
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2018 5:33 AM CDT
Amazon 'Disappointed' in Seattle's New 'Head Tax'
Amazon isn't thrilled about Seattle's new "head tax."   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

"People are dying on the doorsteps of prosperity." That's per a city councilwoman in Seattle, where local politicians hope a new tax on big business will alleviate homelessness. On Monday, the Seattle City Council passed a "head tax," which starting in 2019 will be imposed on the city's largest employers, including Amazon, which CNNMoney reports is Seattle's largest private-sector employer. The tax, which will be $275 year per full-time employee, is expected to bring in about $45 million a year to put toward homelessness services and affordable housing. The ordinance, which would be up for a renewal vote in 2023, will be placed on companies that generate more than $20 million a year in revenue—about 3% of the businesses in Seattle. The vote came after what the Seattle Times calls a "weekend of high stakes negotiations" between City Council members and Mayor Jenny Durkan.

The original proposal would've charged around $500 per full-time employee instead of $275, which would've brought up to $86 million a year into city coffers, per new estimates; Durkan had said she would've vetoed that measure. Seattle has long struggled with its homelessness issue, declaring a state of emergency because of it in 2015. "We have community members who are dying," Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda says. Among other big companies expected to be hit by the tax are Starbucks and the Seattle Times. CNBC notes Denver and Chicago have imposed similar head taxes, though Chicago ended up repealing it. A statement from an exec at Amazon, which could end up forking over $10 million annually, says the company is "disappointed" in the vote, noting "we remain very apprehensive about the future created by the Council's hostile approach." (More Seattle stories.)

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