Some A's to your Q's about the head tax 🎯
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Some A's to your Q's about the head tax 🎯

Our city's got some work to do. Thanks for tagging #theevergrey, Ryan!

More than 30 of you got back to us with some really thoughtful questions (thank you!), and we picked several to start with that represented some common themes we noticed. Not sure what the head tax debate is all about? Here’s our quick summary with the key details.

Ready to go deep on this critical issue? We’re including just a snippet of some answers below. To read all the answers in their entirety, check out our full post on

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Is there a list of all the companies affected? Particularly the big ones?

We haven’t found a definitive list of all 585 companies that would be affected, but it wouldn’t just be giants like Amazon. The Puget Sound Business Journal is reporting that Uwajimaya would owe $260,000 a year, Ivar’s would owe $282,000 a year, and Starbucks would owe $1.9 million a year under the tax.

Other big employers like Zillow, Alaska Airlines, and Expedia have been speaking out against the tax, and the ReferenceUSA database identified Nordstrom, Swedish Medical Center, Safeco, Weyerhaeuser, Windermere Real Estate, and others as Seattle-based companies with thousands of employees and sales volumes of at least $20 million. (Note: The head tax would apply to companies that have an annual gross revenue of at least $20 million.)

Do other cities have a similar “head tax?”

Yep. Denver currently has one it calls an “Occupational Privilege Tax,” and it costs about $4 per employee every month. (Here’s the city’s FAQ on how it works). And other cities in Colorado, like Boulder, have considered one (though the one in Boulder ultimately did not happen). Chicago leaders repealed their city’s head tax in 2014 — but now they’re trying to bring it back. 

Seattle had a head tax until until 2009. Why was the original head tax repealed?

Our city first passed a head tax in 2006 to help pay for major transportation projects and maintain streets and sidewalks. But one council member says we got rid of it because it was too complex to implement.

How does the tax burden on Seattle businesses compare to the tax burden of businesses in other cities?

Puget Sound Business Journal reporter Ashley Stewart came up with a great comparison for this. A Seattle-based company employing at least 200 workers and earning at least $100 million would be taxed about $429,000 each year. In Bellevue, a similar company would pay about $190,000 annually; in Redmond, $22,400. Her full article is here (behind a paywall). 

What taxes is Amazon already paying?

In 2017, Amazon paid $250 million in state and local taxes, reports Matt Day in The Seattle Times.

The city is hoping to use the tax money to help with housing and homeless services. What is the city’s plan for spending the money and how will it be allocated?

Under the current proposal, the city would give $50 million to build affordable housing, $20 million to homeless services, and $5 million to administrative costs, writes Jessica Lee of The Seattle Times. But we won’t know exactly how the city would spend the money until a final version of the law is passed.

What oversight will be in place to make sure the city would spend this extra money right? How can Seattleites see what is being done with funds for housing and homelessness currently?

A lot of you asked a version of this question, and it’s a good one. We don’t have a very satisfying answer at the moment, but we can tell you about an audit that was recently done to check in on the impact of the city’s homelessness services. The verdict? Not great. King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan recently said they’d find a way to make our region more responsive to the homelessness crisis. Meanwhile, a brand new report claims the city needs to spend $400 million per year to solve it.

When will we know if this head tax is passed or not?

As of now, the city council plans to vote on the tax next Monday, May 14. If that changes (and it might!), we’ll let you know. Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Wednesday night that the head tax idea as it stands “doesn’t meet the requirements I have as mayor,” and she’s hoping to get to a compromise.

» Check out longer answers to these and other questions — plus some questions we haven’t gotten to yet — at We’ll continue to dig into these, and in the meantime, if you know of anyone who can help us answer ‘em, put us in touch: [email protected].

Thanks to Missy Nyham, Sarah Schacht, James Ferguson, Richard Fuhr, Drew Biehle, Vlasil Mlekarov, Rick Gregory, Kelly Knickerbocker, Bo Zhang, John L. and many more of you (who preferred to remain anonymous!) for sending in such great questions.

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From trickle to flood. Another day, another batch of business leaders saying nope to the head tax. That’s our city council’s idea to charge big local companies about $540 per employee per year to help out with our housing crisis. Amazon would owe $20 million in each of the tax’s first couple years, and showed how much it loved that by flat-out stopping construction on office space for 8,000 new jobs last week. Since then, the backlash from the Seattle business community has picked up. A lot.

Zillow’s CEO said he’d consider growing his company somewhere else, Uwajimaya’s CEO said she’d have to “think twice” about employee perks, and 130+ tech and business leaders — including the CEOs of Expedia, Alaska Airlines, and Tableau — signed an open letter saying the tax would punish businesses for creating jobs here. “As leaders in Seattle’s business community, it is our shared responsibility to offer solutions, not just criticism,” they wrote. “We ask the City Council to set aside the misguided ‘head tax,’ and to engage us in more dialogue.” Not everyone is coming out against the tax, of course. A group of local labor unions just sent in this letter of support.

‘Everybody likes hates Mike.’ Mike O’Brien has had a bad week. Our city councilmember got screamed at in a church for supporting a controversial new head tax. He got kicked out of a Ballard after-party by port workers fed up with his ideas. All told, he’s now the “most divisive man in Seattle,” writes David Kroman at Crosscut, despite being a pretty nice guy, and fairly consistent in his views around homelessness, the city’s growth, and all the rest of it. So what’s going on? “I don’t think my values have shifted,” Mike told David. “I don’t think my covenant is shifted. But I think the reality that we’re all facing is all of a sudden really different.” Yep. We hear that. (Crosscut).

Pass the popcorn. May means movies in Seattle. That’s thanks to the Seattle International Film Festival, which kicks off next week. SIFF is the largest film festival in the U.S., and if picking from all 400+ films feels a little daunting, here’s a guide to get you ready. (Seattle Weekly)

Four things we dislike more than rain. Plenty of things are frustrating us Seattleites these days. But none more than how much it costs to be a Seattleite. That’s according to a poll by the Puget Sound Regional Council that asked what people like the least about living here. The No. 1 complaint was cost of living, followed by homelessness, transportation, the political environment, and then — of course! — the climate. 🙂 (The Seattle Times)

Things to do

Check out this event from our advertiser, Seattle Propeller Club.

👍 Seattle Maritime Festival Free Family Fun Day Argosy Ship Canal Tours. Try welding or pilot a tug. Music, food trucks and more. 11am-4 pm Saturday, May 12 @ Ballard’s Seattle Maritime Academy.


🐟  Saturday: Put the “sea” in Seattle with the whole family at the Harley Marine Seattle Maritime Festival (Lawton Park)

🍻  May 14: Hang out with fellow readers and the fine folks at South Seattle Emerald at our next Evergrey Meetup (Rainier Beach)

📹  May 16: Sharpen your video storytelling skills at the next Impact Hub Lunch + Learn (Pioneer Square)

Want to partner on your event with us? Here’s how.



🗣 Hear from women storytellers about #MeToo (Capitol Hill)
🍺 Kick off Seattle Beer Week with other brew nerds – through May 20 (All over)
👋 Celebrate PNW tech rock stars at the GeekWire Awards (Queen Anne)
🗣 Listen to bawdy stories from your neighbors (Belltown)


🎟 See some dark puppet comedy (Green Lake)
🎟 Watch a drag tribute to the cartoon characters of Steven Universe (Belltown)
🎶 Dance to live Guinean music (Rainier Valley)
🏞 Paddle out on the lake  (Sammamish)


🎨 Get a behind-the-seams look at 1940s fashion (South Lake Union)
🍴 Nom on savory and sweet pierogi (Capitol Hill)
👋 Welcome Seattle’s new social justice library (Beacon Hill)
👋 Check out your neighbors’ garage treasures (West Seattle)
🎈 Go sssssee snakes and lizards at the Reptile Expo (Monroe)
🎈 Hang with the fishes at the Seattle Maritime Festival, an Evergrey partner event (Lawton Park)


🎶 Hear lullabies by moms struggling with homelessness (Downtown)
🎈 See bonsai trees with the family (Federal Way)
🎈 Run or walk a half-marathon with your kiddos (Kirkland)
🎟 Take mom to a comedy show about the “joys and horrors” of parenthood (Downtown)
🎨  Paint cherry blossoms for mom at this art class (Pioneer Square) — use code EVERGREY to join the class for $25. Thanks, Anjl Rodee! 🆕

Going to one of these? Take us with you! Email a pic to [email protected] or tag #theevergrey on Instagram. See more upcoming events on our events page, and add your own events with an Evergrey membership.


And hey — thanks for checking in with us and each other on all the weird, wild, and messy things going on in this amazing city of ours. Keep your emails, tips, and questions coming. That’s what we’re all about.

Have a good one. — The Evergrey

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