- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Having sent up the red flag before the Christmas holidays, I venture again.

This time I will be far more pedestrian.

Officials in the nation’s capital are seriously pondering a new anti-business tax, and Congress might have to intervene to save the city from itself.

Here’s the 411:

The city would levy a $25 per-employee per-quarter “local service fee” on D.C. employers.

The fee would be imposed on all employers doing business inside city limits, except businesses with four or fewer employees.

To keep track of employers and employees, the city would use quarterly unemployment filings — a stealthy move.

Why stealthy?

It’s stealthy because Social Security numbers and tax-identification numbers are tied to an individual and/or an entity, and if the city will indeed be paying attention every quarter, then both fraud and theft can more easily be kept to a minimum.

But the new tax would move the city backward, discouraging progress instead of lowering taxes, loosening its grip on businesses and looking for long-term planning payoffs — in an election year, no less.

Last week, the D.C. Tax Revision Commission briefed the D.C. Council on its proposed recommendations, which include tax breaks, and that means the election-year fun and games are about to begin.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray and his four opponents on the council — Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat; Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat; Vincent B. Orange; at-large Democrat; and Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat — are already jockeying for position.

Pay closest attention to Mr. Gray and Mr. Evans, the former because he’s trying to save his own hide, and the latter because he oversees tax and revenue on the council.

A sparring match is likely in the offing.

Of the other mayoral candidates, find out what mayoral contender Andy Shallal has to say about new taxes.

Mr. Shallal, who like the others is a Democrat, is also a businessman — and I don’t reckon he is an outright opponent of increasing fees and taxes to generate revenue.

He is, though, the only candidate mentioned who would likely give an honest perspective as to why the city doesn’t need to further burden the business community.

The employer tax isn’t reason alone to call for congressional intervention.

For sure, Republicans and Democrats are busy scratching at each other as it is.

It’s just that Congress has to act on the city’s budget, so lawmakers would be better off knowing what’s on city hall’s radar screen so as not to be totally caught off-guard.

After all, smart business leaders never ignore the bottom line.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.