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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

So, how'd we do?

I hear a deafening silence so far regarding how much Multnomah County collected in the first year of its new, supposedly temporary, individual income tax.

The estimates that County Chair Diane Linn mailed to every household in the county last September said that it would bring in $128 million a year, with $7 million of it to be spent on collection.

I've said all along the county would never collect that much, because it didn't make mandatory wage withholding part of the new tax system. Income taxes don't work without withholding, and since withholding's not required for the Multnomah County income tax, most employers won't do it.

And a lot of taxpayers just haven't paid, and aren't going to unless the collector shows up at their door. The last figures I saw, in early March, showed that only $22 million had come in. Now we're nearly a week past the April 15 deadline for payment of 2003 taxes. All the local mail from last week has been delivered by now, and one would think the envelopes would have been opened and the money counted by now. And so far, no word on how much tax actually came in.

Until an official announcement, it's anybody's guess, but I'm thinking around $90 million at most. That's less than three quarters of the projections. I'm sure the Sisters of Hawthorne have been working furiously on a spin for that one.

Expect a lot of angry folks who paid, when they hear how many didn't. Not angry enough to vote to repeal the tax -- the petitions being circulated now won't pass, although it will be close. But angry enough, and with low enough morale, that political consequences will eventually be felt.

That's what happens when you have an income tax system run by a bunch of rookies.

And notice that it's too late to get a decent mandatory withholding system in place in 2004. The year is almost one-third gone, and employers and their payroll clerks (or payroll services) need a couple of months to ramp up. So the situation isn't going to get any better until 2005 at the earliest.

Which is supposed to be the third and final year of this tax.

Comments (14)

What part of the pie is the shortfall going to be taken from?

Withholding may not work as well as you might think. Doubt they could apply it to all of the employers in the state, even less likely the next state. What about all the people who live in Multnomah County but work in Washington, Clackamas, or Clark County?

I thought it was for *work*I in Multnomah County, even if you *lived* in other counties. Nuts, now I'm confused.

What Dianne's home number? I'm sure she can explain this great idea to us all (^_^)

What part of the pie is the shortfall going to be taken from?

The most popular part of the pie, of course. Just like always. The boondoggles and bureaucratic payrolls are sacrosanct, but anything the public actually enjoys will first on the chopping block. I'm surprised you even have to ask.

The Mult Co Income tax is based on residency, not place of employment. This of course is another problem with the tax. High paid suburbanites who commute into the county for work pay nothing. Also, I'm not sure how badly they really need that money. I mailed them my check on April 13th.... as of this morning it still has not cleared.


local withholding does work. It has in other places I've lived. Of course, Oregon seems to screw everything up

this is now the 4th state I've lived in. The ineptitude of government officials here is kind of amazing. I feel like letting friends in previous states know who complained about their officials that it could be worse.

I mailed my Multnomah County tax check on 4/10/04 and it still hasn't cleared--so when you say that one would think the envelopes would have been opened and the money counted by now, I'm not so sure that is the case. In any event, I agree with you, I'm going to be pretty steamed when I find out that a good percentage of the population didn't pay it and Multnomah County figures out they really don't have enough dollars to enforce it.

According to the County's website they've four people and a tax consultant. I'm sure they're not overwhelmed at all but I wouldn't count on them opening your envelope for a good long while.

The City of Portland Bureau of Licenses is collecting the tax for the County. So those 5 people are not the only ones working on it.

The county is reporting 80% of taxpayers paid the tax on time. I am actually pretty impressed by this figure. As to the actual revenue, I think Jack may be right on this one.

Come on though bloggers, they haven't cashed your checks a week to 10 days since you mailed them, I think your grasping at reasons to complain. They got something in the range of a quarter of a million filings, give them a break on this one.

I mailed my check in on April 2nd. It was deposited yesterday.

As for the amount collected, according to today's Willamette Week, 1/3 of all people supposed to file, didn't.

I think the WW was printed before the surge of filings received last Friday, I don't think the tax was late if it was postmarked the 15th.

Yesterday's O sets the number received at 80%. www.oregonlive.com/metro/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/portland_news/108246256674230.xml

The WW is put to bed on Monday so they had pretty accurate figures. Right now I think they are about 20-30 million short.

Portland Activist tackles tax repeal twice


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