Just a month ago, Seattle proposed a tax on large companies making over $20 million per year — affecting around 585 businesses in the city and costing them $0.26 per hour, per employee. These businesses, including Amazon, Starbucks, Expedia and Alaska Airlines would pay the government a maximum of $500 for each person employed, per year, with 75 percent of the money going towards affordable housing and the rest aimed at helping the homeless.
However, the proposal is now being repealed after the city faced pressure from numerous businesses to do so. The city leaders abandoning the head tax goes to show how powerful Amazon is in rallying opposition against taxes from all levels of government, even in a city with one of the highest homelessness rates in the US.
Homelessness in Seattle, according to the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness
The money calculated would depend on whether the business is a retailer, wholesaler or service provider. For the first two, revenue would only count if the customer was in the city but for service providers, a complex formula would be used to determine how much they owe, depending on the total payroll in Seattle, revenue from services and more.
City Council members had said they worked with a range of groups to pass the measure, aiming to strike a balance between protecting jobs and building affordable housing. But "it is clear that the ordinance will lead to a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis," they said in a statement.
While some businesses voiced their concerns about the tax, Amazon took one step further and halted construction on a new high-rise building near its Seattle-based headquarters ahead of the vote. This is the latest move the company has made against taxes, with the company recently blocking Australians from making purchases on its international website after the country imposed a 10 percent consumption tax on goods shipped there.
This criticism comes as 20 cities fight to lure the company's second headquarters, with all offering incentives like tax breaks and free land. Though critics have been vocally critical of the company pushing the government for public money, but the company sees nothing wrong with it because it is expanding its workforce drastically and wants nothing to stand in the way of this.
The Seattle region had the third-highest homeless population in the US and saw 169 homeless deaths in 2017. To fight this, the city spent $68 million on homelessness last year and will spend $78 million this year.