Commissioner questions scope of new Eugene payroll tax

Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich has enlisted legal help as he tries to alter the implementation of a new payroll tax in Eugene in 2021.

Posted: Dec 22, 2020 5:31 PM
Updated: Dec 22, 2020 6:17 PM

EUGENE, Ore. – Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich has enlisted legal help as he tries to alter the implementation of a new payroll tax in Eugene in 2021.

The Community Safety Payroll Tax was approved by the Eugene City Council in 2019 and taxes employers, employees and the self-employed to help fund public safety.

RELATED: AMID PANDEMIC, EUGENE TAXES SET TO RISE

However, Bozievich said he was notified the tax will apply to his position as a commissioner as well as Lane County employees, despite a provision appearing to exempt subdivisions of the state.

Laura Hammond, a spokesperson for the City of Eugene, said while it’s true local governments are exempt from the tax, employees of those governments are not. 

“The city of Eugene as an employer located within the city doesn't have to pay the tax but the employees do,” Hammond said.

The same concept may apply to Lane County. Hammond explained the tax applies to employees and employers whose offices are physically located within Eugene city limits, regardless of where employees actually do their work. For Bozievich, this has become a major concern because he said it’s unfair for Eugene to collect taxes on income earned outside the city.

“People that work for contractors or that are salespeople, their employer may be located inside the city and they may never step foot inside the city or live in the city,” Bozievich said. “My real objection is the fact I live outside the city, work outside the city, and my income is derived outside the city. And I believe they’re still trying to apply it to people in the same situation as I am.”

Bozievich said he doesn’t have an office in Eugene and does most of his work from home outside the city, so he shouldn’t be subjected to the tax. He’s enlisted a local attorney to help make his case, and said he’s willing to file suit if a solution isn’t reached.

“We’ll see the city in court and see if the court of law agrees with their interpretation,” Bozievich said.

Hammond said the city has been working individually with people who reach out with questions about whether the tax applies to them, and the city will contact Bozievich to clarify the implementation.

“I do know it has been a busy time. We've definitely been getting some calls. But we do want to get back to folks as quickly as we can so that they have the best information possible, which will be the same for Commissioner Bozievich. We'll make sure we get back to him as soon as we're able to,” Hammond said.

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