The Washington State Constitution prohibits the government from levying an income tax on targeted segments of the population; any income tax must be uniformly applied to all citizens. Nonetheless, Seattle enacted an income tax targeting those making in excess of $250,000 per year with a 2.25% tax rate, setting a 0% rate for everyone else. Promoted as a “wealth tax,” the City’s income tax punishes achievement and success, while threatening poor and middle class families who could later fall subject to new city, county, and state taxes if Seattle’s gambit succeeds. PLF represents Seattle residents in a lawsuit challenging the city’s knowing violation of the state constitution.
Washington’s state constitution provides that all taxes must be “uniform upon the same class of property.” The Washington Supreme Court has repeatedly held that income is property and, therefore, the state’s constitution prohibits targeted income taxes. Nonetheless, Seattle’s city council unanimously adopted an income tax that targets the city’s “high-income” residents by imposing a 2.25 percent tax on any individual earning more than $250,000 per year, or married couples earning over $500,000 per year, and an initial rate of 0 percent on everyone else. Sold as a “wealth tax,” the ordinance is a Trojan Horse that threatens the rights of poor and middle class families. By its plain language, the ordinance imposes an income tax on each and every resident of the city. The income bands and tax rates are temporary. Experience shows that, once a source of tax revenue opens, the government will mine it—meaning that every income level is now exposed to new taxes.
PLF represents Scott Shock, Sally Oljar, Steve Davies, and John Palmer, Seattle residents and taxpayers who are seeking to invalidate the illegal income tax. They challenge the city’s unilateral actions in violation of the state constitution and laws, which threaten not only the taxpayers’ rights but also the state’s economy, which derives substantial benefits from the constitutional barriers to targeted income taxes. The city council is well-aware that the Washington Supreme Court has repeatedly invalidated graduated income taxes as unconstitutional, but hopes that the current court will overturn the characterization of income as property and open the door to more taxes.