On May 14, 2018, in Seattle, Washington, USA, a bill was passed called the employee poll tax. According to authorities, more than 500 large companies in Seattle including Amazon and Starbucks, will pay $275 more in taxes per employee starting next year. The 137.5 million dollars that they will collect will be used to build public housing for the homeless. After that, the US media have called this a ‘head tax’ or ‘homeless tax’ in the sense that government collects the tax indiscriminately on the head of employees and there is controversy over it. So what are the pros and cons?
First of all, those who support the tax argue that the increase in the outcome of IT conglomerate’s employees is the cause of producing homeless people because they make the property price high. The actual number of homeless people in Seattle is about 12,000, up 35% from five years ago. According to American property information site Jillo, Seattle's average house price in March this year was $732,800, 75% more than five years ago. As a result, in Seattle, there are over 400 tent sites where more than 10,000 homeless people live in tall buildings while IT professions earn hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Because of these situations, supporters of the tax argue that the large corporations should accommodate the homeless by paying more taxes.
On the opposition side of the poll tax, Drew Huddner, a public officer at Amazon, said in a statement after the bill that he was very disappointed with the decision. He stated, “The city council has raised the budget from $ 2.8 billion in 2010 to $ 4.2 billion in seven years, and is expected to have a bigger budget this year. This budget is enough to operate public housing for the homeless”. In other words, the reason for the increase in the number of homeless people is not because of the IT companies, but because the City of Seattle, which already has a lot of taxes, could not effectively manage the budget. Besides, the skepticism about whether the new tax could solve the homeless problem is also great. According to Komo news in Seattle, 96% of the respondents said that this poll tax couldn’t lead to a change that would solve the Seattle homeless problem.
Likewise, the debate about the pros and cons concerning the Seattle poll tax is continued. Finally the Seattle city council voted for the abolition of the poll tax, and passed the abolition plan by 7-2 on June 12, 2018. However, this Seattle poll tax can’t be seen as being resolved.
We should pay attention to income polarization that can be the underlying cause of this controversy. Income polarization is still continued and is a major problem not only in America but also all around the world.