Action Alert: Tax Exemption and Transparency and Accountability Act SSB 5513

Some businesses are given tax preferences and other are not. A tax preference confers reduced tax liability upon a designated class of taxpayer. Tax preferences include tax exclusions, deductions, exemptions, preferential tax rates, deferrals, and credits. Currently over 650 preferences exist in Washington state.  According to the Department of Revenue’s projection in their 2016 Tax Exemption Report, they projected that while the state would collect some $7.4 billion in B&O taxes, they would exempt from the same tax base some $11.4 billion. No wonder in these times of tight budgets and escalating need, many tax payers wonder which businesses, how much, and is it fair.  

As one elected official commented, “With paid lobbyists from the biggest businesses regularly walking the halls of the legislature asking for tax breaks, handing out perks, and donating to campaign funds, many legislators find it easier to say “yes” than to say “no”. Why, because the general public doesn’t know who is paying and who is not. The problem is, if large profitable companies are exempted from paying over 11 billion dollars in taxes, the rest of the taxpayers must make up the difference to fund schools, fix the infrastructure, and provide government services.  We all benefit from resources like good roads, educated workforce, low cost electricity. We do not want our legislators to be in the business of picking winners and losers by awarding some businesses tax breaks and others not.

SSB 5513 Brief summary:

  • Requires the budget outlook document to explicitly reflect the fiscal impact of tax preferences. 
  • Requires the budget document to include a detailed listing of tax preferences. 
  • Requires the Department of Revenue tax exemption report to be updated more frequently. 

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