Tax Amazon, say small business owners. We can’t afford to pay more | KUOW News and Information

Tax Amazon, say small business owners. We can’t afford to pay more

Mar 31, 2018

Small businesses in Seattle disagree about a possible new tax to ease homelessness. But they agree on this: They can't afford it. 

Last month a Seattle task force recommended the city tax businesses to pay for affordable housing and homeless services.

Jesiah Wurtz, a task force member, said small businesses should be exempt.

“Amazon actually could pay for this entire tax themselves and not even notice," he said. “It’s not about penalizing them for making money. It’s about recognizing that these are the businesses that are driving up the cost of living for everybody here.”

Wurtz, who owns the Café Red coffee shop in Othello, a neighborhood in Seattle's south end, said business owners are being nickled and dimed by the city. But he said money for affordable housing is important because they could keep customers and employees in his neighborhood.

“One of the big reasons that the small businesses around here are struggling so hard is just the fact that their existing customer base no longer has a home in their communities," he said. 

Wurtz, who hasn't drawn a salary since opening his shop, ultimately signed a letter in support of the tax.

Jesiah Wurtz owns Cafe Red in Seattle's Othello neighborhood. He says he hasn't taken a salary since starting his shop.
Credit KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

Gayle Nowicki, owner of Gargoyles Statuary, a fanciful space in the University District that sells art and jewelry, opposed it. 

Nowicki serves on the city's Small Business Advisory Council. She said the spending goals for the tax haven’t been well explained.

“It seems impulsive to me, not well thought out, when we’re already losing so many small businesses all the time because of all the changes in Seattle," Nowicki said. “I would love to help but I don’t think imposing it on small business is the way to do it. It should be everybody helping, not small businesses that are already struggling.”

But she and Wurtz agree that big companies should pay the tax. The Seattle City Council will be briefed Monday on how they might structure such a tax.