Archive for the ‘Washington State’ Category

Taxes Matter (2018 Version), Part 1

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Those on the left constantly chirp that taxes don’t matter. Those of us who prepare tax returns can state as fact you’re wrong. I moved my business because of taxes and regulations. Here are two other examples from today that illustrate this.

First, the city of Seattle is proposing a new tax on businesses with $20 million in gross receipts (or more): an employee tax of $0.26/employee-hour. Shockingly, Seattle’s largest employer,, has stopped planning on a new 17-story office tower in downtown Seattle. Are the two related? Drew Herdener, an Amazon Vice President told FoxBusiness,

I can confirm that pending the outcome of the head tax vote by City Council, Amazon has paused all construction planning on our Block 18 project in downtown Seattle and is evaluating options to sub-lease all space in our recently leased Rainer Square building.

From the Wall Street Journal comes a headline, “My Clients Are Fleeing NJ Like It’s on Fire.” An excerpt:

That headline arrives via email from a money manager in northern New Jersey. The Garden State already has the third largest overall tax burden and the country’s highest property tax collections per capita. Now that federal reform has limited the deduction for state and local taxes, the price of government is surging again among high-income earners in New Jersey and other blue states. Taxpayers are searching for the exits.

Read the whole thing (note: Pay Link).

For those who say taxes don’t matter, you’re wrong. From small businesses to large taxes absolutely matter.

Law 1, Seattle 0

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

Earlier this year the city of Seattle unanimously passed a city income tax into law. The tax would be 2.25% on total income above $250,000 for individuals and on total income of $500,000 for married filing jointly. The law was immediately challenged (it faced at least 11 different lawsuits) because the Washington constitution prohibits taxes on net income (and many other reasons, including a law passed in 1984 banning cities, counties, and other jurisdictions from levying income taxes). But the far-left city council in the Emerald City didn’t care about those pesky laws; they wanted, “…to build a more just and equitable society for all…” and that required (in their view) “…a serious overhaul of our state’s tax structure.”

In a development that was anything but a surprise, Judge John Ruhl ruled that the ordinance violates the law passed in 1984 that bars a tax on net income.

Regardless of which of these definitions one uses, the conclusion is the same: the City’s income tax is a tax on net income…

The City’s argument is not persuasive. Although it is true that “net proceeds” is not synonymous with “net income,” a “total income” figure that includes “net proceeds” necessarily reflects the result of a netting process, and thus is “net income.”

In sum, the court concludes that the City’s Ordinance imposes a tax on net income.

The judge did not reach the constitutional arguments because the city’s proposed tax was not legal based on statutory grounds.

While the city vowed to appeal to the Washington Supreme Court
, if they really want to change Washington’s tax structure a better choice would be to convince the Washington legislature to do so.

Former NFL Player Alleged to Have Fumbled His Sales Tax Returns

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

I’ve said repeatedly that if you want to get in trouble with the IRS, one of the easiest ways to do so is to collect payroll taxes but not remit them. Less frequently I’ve commented about state tax agencies and mentioned that they don’t like you collecting sales taxes and not remitting them. A former NFL player is accused of that and committing wage theft against his employees.

Sam Adams played in the NFL for 14 years with Seattle, Baltimore, Oakland, Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Denver. A defensive lineman, he has 44 sacks credited to him in his career and made the Pro Bowl three times. He and his CFO, Dana Sargent, now face 21 counts of theft and tax evasion. From the Affidavit of Probable Cause:

Adams and Sargent have not only made multiple attempts to evade tax liabilities resulting in a tax bill, as of January 21, 2015, of over $446,571.38, but have failed to pay employees their deserved wages, failed to pay the medical premiums promised to employees as part of their benefit packages, failed to remit the premiums withheld from employees’ paychecks for medical insurance and failed to pay into unemployment insurance for employees, resulting in liens by the Employee Security Department on each company. During the latter part of 2013 through January 2014, Adams’s and Sargent’s illegal actions have caused employees, through no fault of their own, to have countless insufficient fund checks that they were unable to cash which resulted in employees losing their housing, being unable to pay household bills, being unable to buy Christmas gifts and accruing thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills for themselves and their families. Numerous wage complaints have been filed against Lincoln Plaza Athletic Club, LLC, West Seattle Athletic Club, LLC, Adams and Sargent. The Department of Labor has been involved in efforts to assist employees in getting their unpaid medical, dental and vision bills paid due to Adams and Sargent either failing to pay the premiums as promised in the employees’ compensation packages and/or deducting premiums from employees’ pay checks and failing to remit them to the insurance company.

There’s plenty more in the affidavit, including West Seattle Athletic Club closing and the next day a “new” business opening (West Seattle Club) opening. That club paid its first three sales tax returns and then decided not to. That’s a good way to get on a tax agency’s naughty list. Mr. Adams operates six athletic clubs in Oregon and Washington. After reading the indictment, I think it’s possible he won’t be operating any soon.

Bad States for Gamblers

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve listed out the bad states for gamblers. Here’s an updated list. Make sure you read the notes because while all of these states have tax systems that are problematic for gamblers, some impact amateurs while others impact professionals. Note that I do not cover the laws that impact gambling here (such as Washington State’s law that makes online gambling a Class C felony).

Connecticut [1]
Hawaii [2]
Illinois [1]
Indiana [1]
Massachusetts [1]
Michigan [1]
Minnesota [3]
Mississippi [4]
New York [5]
Ohio [6]
Washington [7]
West Virginia [1]
Wisconsin [1]


1. CT, IL, IN, MA, MI, WV, and WI do not allow gambling losses as an itemized deduction. These states’ income taxes are written so that taxpayers pay based (generally) on their federal Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). AGI includes gambling winnings but does not include gambling losses. Thus, a taxpayer who has (say) $100,000 of gambling winnings and $100,000 of gambling losses will owe state income tax on the phantom gambling winnings. (Michigan does exempt the first $300 of gambling winnings from state income tax.)

2. Hawaii has an excise tax (the General Excise and Use Tax) that’s thought of as a sales tax. It is, but it is also a tax on various professions. A professional gambler is subject to this 4% tax (an amateur gambler is not).

3. Minnesota’s state Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) negatively impacts amateur gamblers. Because of the design of the Minnesota AMT, amateur gamblers with significant losses effectively cannot deduct those losses.

4. Mississippi only allows Mississippi gambling losses as an itemized deduction.

5. New York has a limitation on itemized deductions. If your AGI is over $500,000, you lose 50% of your itemized deductions (including gambling losses). You begin to lose itemized deductions at an AGI of $100,000.

6. Ohio currently does not allow gambling losses as an itemized deduction. However, effective January 1, 2013, gambling losses will be allowed as a deduction on state income tax returns. Unfortunately, those gambling losses will not be deductible on city or school district income tax returns, so Ohio will remain a bad state for amateur gamblers.

7. Washington state has no state income tax. However, the state does have a Business & Occupations Tax (B&O Tax). The B&O Tax has not been applied toward professional gamblers, but my reading of the law says that it could be at any time.

Making Lives Miserable in the Pacific Northwest

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I used to reside in Kent, Washington. The Pacific Northwest is (during clear weather) one of the most beautiful places in the country. The combination of the Cascades, the ocean, Puget Sound, and Lake Washington makes the Seattle area a paradise. Unfortunately, paradises can be lost.

There are two threats to Washingtonians. First, on the November ballot is Initiative 1098. This measure would impose an income tax on Washingtonians who are “rich.” Of course, the reality is this measure would hit many in the middle class. It imposes a state income tax on individuals with an Adjusted Gross Income of $200,000 or more ($400,000 if married filing jointly). If this measure passes, Washington loses one of its most attractive features. Additionally, the state legislature could, in future years, increase either the scope of the tax or the rate. Needless to say, I think Washingtonians should reject this measure.

However, there’s another law that passed in 2006 that is now having a major impact on some of my clients. The Washington state legislature passed a law making online gambling a Class C felony. The measure passed without much discussion (it was supported by the Indian gambling interests in Washington state) and signed by the Democratic governor of the Evergreen State, Christine Gregoire.

The law was challenged in state court on grounds that it violated the dormant commerce clause of the US Constitution. The Washington Supreme Court recently upheld the law (though they questioned the idea of the law). Today, the largest online poker site, PokerStars, announced that they would no longer offer online gambling to Washingtonians.

Now, you and I may differ on our views on online gambling. However, most Americans would probably believe that to make online gamblers felons is ridiculous. It’s also ridiculous to consider online gambling equivalent to:

  • Possession of Stolen Property
  • Drug Crimes (Narcotics)
  • Theft
  • Witness Tampering
  • DUI
  • Felonious Driving

Washingtonians, welcome to the Nanny State.

There are several things that Washingtonians who are professional gamblers should do. First, call your state legislators. They may disagree with you, but let them know that your livelihood has just been stopped, and that you now must consider moving; that will directly impact Washington’s economy as the money you would spend locally (helping other businesses and adding to sales tax collections) will instead go elsewhere. Follow up with a letter; this forces legislators (well, their staff) to read and respond.

Second, there’s an election in one month. For the most part, your current legislators got you into this mess. Every two to six years (depending on the office) you have the right to retire those legislators. If you haven’t registered to vote, do so. Exercise your right to vote on November 2nd. There are several races in Washington state that are extremely close; your vote will matter.

For those of you who are gamblers and don’t reside in Washington state, don’t be complacent. What has happened in the Pacific Northwest can happen anywhere in the United States if your legislature doesn’t hear your voice. There is an organization for poker players; it also has a Political Action Committee.

If you are not a gambler and you reside in Washington state you may think this is irrelevant. It’s not. Your economy will be negatively impacted by these measures, to the detriment of all Washingtonians. Sure, it won’t be a huge hit–it’s not equivalent to, say, Microsoft moving from Redmond to Atlanta–but do you think that given how weak the economy is that the Evergreen State needs any hits to the economy?

When I went to school, I was taught that silence equals acquiescence. If you’re a Washingtonian, this isn’t the time to be silent.

An Income Tax in Washington State?

Monday, August 16th, 2010

As I’ve often told friends and clients, Washington state has every tax known to man except an income tax. That may change this fall…and not in a good way.

There will be a ballot measure to add an income tax to supposedly only the highest income Washingtonians. Those who earn over $200,000 ($400,000 if married filing jointly) would pay a 5% tax; those who earn over $500,000 ($1 million if MFJ) would pay 9%. However, as noted in the Wall Street Journal the liberal-leaning Evergreen State legislature could increase the scope and rate of the tax in two years; in theory, every Washingtonian could get hit with an income tax.

I’m certain the Nevada Development Authority is rooting for the passage of Initiative 1098. We know that the unions are; the Service Employees International Union is pushing for its passage.

Peter Pappas has more.