Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, April 6, 2020

Washington State Supreme Court Denies Seattle’s Bid for Income Tax on Wealthy Households

SeattleWashington’s Supreme Court has denied Seattle’s bid to reinstate an income tax on wealthy households, declining to hear the city’s case by a majority decision. Both a King County Superior Court judge and the state Court of Appeals had ruled against the tax, and the Supreme Court denied to hear the request to overturn these decisions.

“The petitions for review are both denied,” Chief Justice Debra Stephens wrote, without elaboration and without issuing an opinion. The petitions were written by the city and by the Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI), a Seattle-based progressive think tank. A Supreme Court spokeswoman declined to report the tally and how each justice voted, but a source that wanted to remain anonymous said the vote was 5-3.

The ruling means Washington and its cities will remain blocked from enacting graduated income taxes, with different rates based on wealth. John Burbank, EOI’s executive director, said that Seattle could respond to the coronavirus health and economic crisis by trying to implement a single-rate income tax with exemptions meant to help poorer people. “I’m disappointed in the denial for review,” Burbank said Friday. “Having said that,” letting the Court of Appeals decision on the 1984 law stand, “does clear the way” for new proposals. This was alluding to the fact that the Supreme Court let stand a decision by the Court of Appeals last year to void the state law that banned taxes on net income.

Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform at the conservative Washington Policy Center, described the Court of Appeals decision on the 1984 ban as “bizarre” but hailed the Court's denial on the present case.

See Daniel Beekman, Washington State Supreme Court Denies Seattle’s Bid for Income Tax on Wealthy Households, Seattle Times, April 3, 2020.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2020/04/washington-state-supreme-court-denies-seattles-bid-for-income-tax-on-wealthy-households.html

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