The city of Seattle will appeal a Superior Court judge’s ruling striking down an income tax on high earners.
Judge John Ruhl found in favor of plaintiffs, a collection of wealthy individuals and organizations, saying that the city does not have the authority to levy an income tax and that attempts to characterize it as an excise tax — which the city can impose — fall apart upon scrutiny.
Paul Lawrence, who represented the city, described it as an excise tax on the privilege to live in Seattle. Excise taxes don’t work that way, Ruhl wrote.
“In short, the City’s tax, which is labeled, ‘Income Tax,’ is exactly that,” Ruhl wrote.
He also found that the tax, as designed, was imposed on “net income,” which is expressly prohibited under Washington state law.
Although any outcome was sure to be appealed, the ruling means that the city cannot assess the tax during 2018 while the case moves inexorably toward the State Supreme Court.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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