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  • Writer's pictureLeslie Lewallen

Ask Leslie- Business and Occupation Tax

Today's Question:

What is your position on a City-wide Business & Occupation tax? Are you aware of the negative impacts that it specifically has on REALTORS and the real estate community?

I am firmly against adopting a City-wide Business & Occupation (B&O) tax in Camas. The B&O tax was enacted by the Washington State legislature in 1933 as a “temporary” funding solution. However, many cities across Washington have started enacting their own local versions of the B&O tax on top of the flawed statewide revenue program. Washington’s statewide B&O tax is a regressive tax that punishes profitability, penalizes struggling businesses and disincentivizes the growth of new, local entrepreneurs that are vital to creating sustainable local economies and communities.

The Washington Policy Center, an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) research and educational organization, stated that the B&O tax is “nationally recognized as one of the worst ways to tax businesses.” Further, the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based research group, has called the tax “deeply flawed and damaging.” I agree with these independent positions because, among other reasons, the B&O tax is based on the gross receipts of a business, not the gross profitability. This taxation regime is particularly unfair to small businesses, especially ones that may not be experiencing net profitability. When discussing this issue with small business owners and fledgling startups in Camas, they consistently shared their frustration that even in years where they make no profit and cannot make payroll to support their employees and their families, the government still gets paid its B&O tax.

This issue is particularly relevant to the real estate community for the reasons set forth above, among many others. Thankfully, at the end of the 2019 Washington State legislative session, RPAC successfully fought off the 20% increase in the B&O tax for most service businesses, effective January 1, 2020. While in office, I am firmly against adopting a City-wide Business & Occupation (B&O) tax in Camas that would negatively impact the viability and sustainability of our important small businesses and independent contractors, including Realtorsⓒ.

Thanks for the question. If you have a question, just send me a note at

- Leslie


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