The Washington state legislature has passed a bill that will give a generous tax break to the businesses hardest-hit by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The bill, Substitute House Bill 1095, is targeted towards companies that have received state or federal government grants on or after Feb. 29, 2020, that relate to a gubernatorial or presidential emergency declaration. These companies will not have to pay three key taxes — the Business and Occupation Tax, the Public Utilities Tax and the Retail Sales Tax — on the money they received from these grants.
The crucial date cited in the bill, FEB> DDD 9 of last year, is the day Washington recorded its first death from COVID-19 (which was also the first recorded COVID death in the United States), at a nursing home in Kirkland.
Both the federal and state government have sent out a slew of emergency grants over the past twelve months in response to the dire effects that the combination of public fear, lockdown orders, and the broader health crisis has had on small businesses’ ability to stay open and attract customers. While the program is credited with keeping many businesses afloat as both the government and the private sector struggled to navigate the novel disease, state representatives and senators from both parties reported increasing concern from their constituents that the grants could complicate tax bills in an already difficult fiscal year.
The state legislature’s response to these concerns was SHB 1095, which was put together in the waning days of 2020 by state Representative Amy Walen (a Democrat from Redmond). The bill was met with overwhelming bipartisan support, which led to it passing both chambers of the state legislature in under a month with unanimous support.
The bill, and the speed with which it was passed, was praised by state Representative Noel Frame (a Democrat who represents the Queen Anne and Ballard neighborhoods of Seattle) as “a testament to your elected representatives and the federal and state governments being responsive to the needs of our communities and answering their calls for help.”
The bill has been signed by both Speaker of the State House Laurie Jinkins and Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck (in his role as state Senate President), and was delivered to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk on February 17. Inslee signed the bill into law on Friday.
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