Randy Lewis, a lobbyist for the city of Tacoma, called PubliCola last week to weigh in on the controversy around a proposal to consolidate local business and occupation tax collection at the state level. The conservative Association of Washington Business has confirmed it plans to push the state legislature next year to implement the consolidation, which business representatives (and Gov. Chris Gregoire, who proposed the legislation last year) say would make local B&O tax collections simpler and  less expensive to collect.

Lewis, like his counterparts at the city of Seattle, says the proposal would cost his city money—in Tacoma's case, between $4 and $7 million a year, due to the fact that businesses will be able to declare that some of their income is actually earned outside cities that charge B&O taxes, like Tacoma.

"We do have data that shows what we’ll lose, and why we’ll lose it, and how we’ll lose it," Lewis says. "We’re confident in the numbers."

AWB spokeswoman Amber Carter says Seattle and Tacoma have "consistently overestimated the negative impacts and seriously underestimates the positive impacts of centralizing city B&O tax at the state level." She says the proposed state-level system will make it easier for businesses to pay their taxes and ensure that they aren't paying taxes on more than 100 percent of their gross receipts.

Lewis counters that the state's cities have come up with an alternative system that accomplishes the same thing---a statewide "portal" where businesses would be able to enter all their tax information once instead of having to file multiple times in the various jurisdictions where they operate.
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