Seattle plans to tax businesses to fight homelessness

The Seattle City Council has approved a tax on large businesses such as Amazon and Starbucks to fight homelessness.

The council on Monday unanimously backed a compromise tax plan that will charge large businesses about $275 per full-time worker a year. It’s lower than the $500-per-worker tax initially proposed.

The tax would begin in 2019 and raise about $48 million a year to pay for affordable housing and homeless services.

Some council members acknowledged it wasn’t enough to address urgent housing needs but conceded they couldn’t get the six votes needed to override a potential veto by the mayor.

Other cities have implemented similar taxes, but critics say Seattle’s tax could threaten the booming local economy and drive away jobs.

Supporters say businesses that have benefited from Seattle’s prosperity and contributed to growing income inequality should pay.

The so-called “head tax” has been hotly debated in recent weeks at raucous meetings and rallies.

Amazon raised the stakes when it announced it would halt construction planning on a 17-story tower near its hometown headquarters pending the outcome of the tax vote.