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Business "Head Tax" on November Ballot

by Scott Donald, Irvine, July 2018

 

Voters in Mountain View, California will decide in November whether to tax Google and other businesses in the city a "head tax" to help alleviate traffic and housing problems. The tax, which is based on the number of employees at a business, already exists in San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Redwood City.

 

Head Tax Model

 

Mountain View's current business tax has been in place since 1954 and is based on a company's square footage. The head tax model would charge the city's 3,700 businesses a flat rate based on their size, and a progressive per employee rate.

 

Businesses with up to 50 employees would be charged a base rate of up to $75 per year and those with more would be charged a base rate plus a per-employee fee that climbs with the work force's size, up to a maximum of $150 each.

 

If the ballot measure passes, the tax could generate upwards of $6 million a year, with $3.3 million coming from Google alone.

 

Seattle Head Tax Repealed

 

The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a head tax that would have levied a $275 per employee tax on businesses making more than $20 million a year. However, amid fierce opposition from local businesses such as Amazon and Starbucks, the council repealed it.

 

Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel noted that Seattle's proposal was primarily meant to ease homelessness. However, the Mountain View head tax would benefit not only city residents but also Google employees, who face the same housing and transportation challenges. Siegel said the additional tax revenue is needed to help alleviate traffic congestion and a housing shortage, which have been exacerbated by an enormous work force and continued tech growth in Silicon Valley.