By Marcos Wanless | Founder and President, Seattle Latino Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
September 15 marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, a time when we celebrate the contributions of our country’s thriving Hispanic communities. Cities like Seattle are richer for these contributions, both past and present.
Coincidentally, this month also marks the start of the Seattle City Council’s budget deliberations, including a new flat tax on all deliveries. With this new tax, city leaders are once again asking those who visit and live in Seattle to pay more.
I can tell you first-hand that adding a delivery tax is the wrong way to solve the city’s budget challenges, especially given the growth in Hispanic-owned businesses, many of whom rely on deliveries to grow and sustain their customer base.
As founder and president of the Seattle Latino Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, I’ve heard amazing stories of creativity, resilience and, perhaps most importantly, enthusiasm from our member businesses, people who worked to keep their doors open through the worst of COVID and remain in business today. Many of these businesses are growing – a trend that tracks with national data.
According to a 2022 report by the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, Latino-owned businesses in the U.S. are more likely to say they’ve recovered from the pandemic and are performing better than before.
So when I hear about a new city tax aimed at delivery services, it concerns me greatly, because I know this will have an adverse impact on our chamber’s member businesses, their employees and the families they support.
Adding a delivery tax to the customer’s bill increases the cost of services and could give people pause before ordering a meal or buying online. Under the proposal, anyone who uses any delivery service would likely pay this new tax, whether ordering dinner, diapers, a pair of shoes – anything that is delivered.
Like all sales tax, a delivery tax is a regressive tax, one that would disproportionately affect those who can least afford it – including seniors, communities of color and people with disabilities who rely on delivery services to help with groceries, meals and other shopping.
Taxes like this affect our membership and all Latino businesses in Seattle. Do we really need to add a tax on delivery services to balance Seattle’s budget?
City leaders think so. But voters aren’t so sure.
According to a recent poll conducted for our colleagues at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, a majority of Seattle voters continue to feel that taxes in Seattle are too high for the level of services the city provides.
What’s more, two-thirds of those polled said they do not trust the city of Seattle to spend tax dollars responsibly. (pg. 26)
Do we really need to drive up the cost of delivery services to pay for a new government program? Is this the best use of tax dollars right now?
And, can we expect consumers to keep paying more for the same food, just to fund another new city program? At some point, it becomes too much. And that’s when a customer may decide to look elsewhere for delivery of a favorite meal or household item.
Our city continues to deal with ongoing public safety issues – crime and safety are the top reasons people cite for leaving Seattle, with the cost of living a close second. Right now, it feels like the city needs to re-evaluate its priorities rather than looking for new tax revenue.
Instead, the mayor and city council should be looking to support services that address the public’s concerns, not driving up costs for customers who support Hispanic small businesses and provide valuable income for independent contractors of all backgrounds.
During this Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s a shame the city has decided to create a new obstacle for our businesses, as they continue to rebound from COVID and the impacts of inflation.
We don’t need another tax in Seattle. We need to use existing revenue to build up our city and find ways to encourage Latino businesses to grow and succeed.
That would be a much better way to honor Hispanic Heritage Month, in the long run.