Seattle’s income tax on the rich is illegal, the judge’s rules


Seattle's income tax on wealthy households failed its first legal examination on Wednesday.

  Lewis Kamb


Seattle Times Journalist

The Seattle income tax for wealthy households was considered illegal on Wednesday.

King County Superior Court Judge John R. Ruhl agreed with multiple lawsuits that a city ordinance pbaded in July to impose a new income tax on wealthy people violates the state constitution and has no authority under state law.

order filed by several plaintiffs who sued the city for the measure, Ruhl agreed that with his argument that Washington's constitution and statutes prohibit tax plans that impose different rates on low-income people and those who earn more money.

Opponents to the so-called "income tax of high-income residents" of the city praised the ruling to bolster their arguments that the city has always known its "Tax Scheme" was legally flawed, but nonetheless pushed to the law of the city.

"The Seattle City Council knew when it first happened this past summer that taxes in this state should be applied uniformly," Tom McCabe, executive director of Freedom Foundation, co-plaintiff on the demand.

In a joint statement, Holmes and Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess said the city would appeal the ruling on the grounds that Washington's "excessive reliance on regressive sales taxes" is a wrong and unfair system.

"We also live in a time of extreme income inequality that corrodes our social pact and makes many wonder if wealthy people are paying their fair share," the statement said. "When it comes to the state of Washington, the studies are clear: the richest among us do not pay their fair share."

The statement adds the purpose of the city's income tax to revise the state's fiscal structure to help "build an equitable society for all."

"Seattle's income tax was an attempt to move towards this goal, and we hope that it remains on appeal, "the statement said.

Approved by unanimous vote of City County in July and then signed by former Mayor Ed Murray, the Seattle measure is a 2.25 percent tax on total income of more than $ 250,000 for individuals and above $ 500,000 for married couples who file a joint return.

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