OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state’s richest residents — including Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates — would pay a wealth tax on some financial assets under a bill proposed by a lawmaker who says she is seeking a fair tax code at a time when so many people are struggling due to the pandemic.
Under the bill, a 1% tax would be levied on “extraordinary” intangible financial assets including cash, publicly traded options, futures contracts, and stocks and bonds — but not income. The first $1 billion in value would be exempt from the tax that would apply to residents’ taxable worldwide wealth.
Forbes magazine says about a dozen of the richest people in the world live in Washington state, including Bezos and Gates, who top the global list after making their fortunes from their respective tech companies, Amazon and Microsoft.
About 100 taxpayers in the state have wealth in excess of $1 billion, according to the state Department of Revenue.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Noel Frame of Seattle, said the measure isn’t an attack on the state’s richest residents.
“It actually really isn’t about them, it’s about the working people of Washington who right now are disproportionally paying for community investments like public education, public health, you name it,” she said. “This is about equity in the tax code.”
Efforts to increase taxes on the wealthy are not new, but no state currently has a wealth tax, according to Jackson Brainerd, senior policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Washington state measure “would be the first of its kind if it passes,” he said.
In New York state, the governor is proposing to raise income taxes on the wealthiest residents but has called legislative proposals there to tax billionaire’s assets “unconstitutional.” A measure was proposed in California last year that would have created a 0.4 percent yearly tax on a resident’s worldwide net worth over $30 million.