The star-crossed, $35-per-head arts tax Portlanders approved last November continues to sow confusion in the populace. For the second time, the city is having to issue guidance about who should and should not have to pay the tax—and this time, it's offering a refund.
Mayor Charlie Hales, whose exasperation with the flawed measure is obvious, announced this morning that the city will offer refunds to Portlanders whose only earnings come primarily from Social Security or the Public Employees Retirement System.
Earlier, the city clarified that people who earned less than $1,000 in 2012 did not owe the tax.
Here's the information Hales' office released this morning:
An analysis of the arts tax of the city of Portland has revealed that some people who have received most or all of their income from Social Security or the Public Employees Retirement System have paid the tax. And those types of income are not taxable by the city.
This means some people who have paid the arts tax are eligible for refunds.
A notice explaining the refund process is posted on the city’s homepage, www.portlandoregon.gov, with links at www.portlandorgon.gov/revenue and www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor.
This is the second revision so far for the tax, which was approved by voters in November 2012. Earlier this spring, an analysis of the tax showed that anyone in a household above the federal poverty level was expected to pay the $35 per year, even if an individual in that household made less than $35.
The City Council adopted a revision to the arts tax, setting excluded people who made less than $1,000 in 2012.
The deadline for people to pay the arts tax is May 15. “To date, the Revenue Bureau has collected over $4.25 million and thousands of checks are being processed daily,” said Thomas Lannom, director of the City Revenue Bureau.
People who don’t need to pay the tax are those who income derives solely or primarily from Social Security and PERS. Refunds are not applicable if people had $1,000 or more in other income that is taxable.
Social Security is not a taxable form of income in Oregon, even though it often is taxable at a federal level.
The Revenue Bureau has not estimated the number of people eligible for the refund.
“This arts tax puts us in a bind,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “We want to be true to voters, who approved it in November. We have to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money. And we want to support the public schools and arts community. These problems – which stem from the way the tax was written – make it difficult to meet all those goals.”
Hales said staff will continue to study the arts tax, and will recommend changes, as directed by City Council in March.
The tax was created last year to support arts programs in public schools, as well as the metro area arts community.
Two lawsuits have been filed against the arts tax.