King County leaders have asked Gov. Jay Inslee to push back this spring’s property-tax deadline at least 30 days for taxpayers in hardship situations, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Property taxes for the first half of 2020 are due April 30. But in a letter to the governor Saturday, County Executive Dow Constantine, County Assessor John Wilson and the County Council requested a delay for residential and commercial taxpayers who’ve been rocked by the outbreak, which is wreaking havoc with the state’s economy.
Inslee has declared an emergency in Washington. In their letter, the county leaders noted that the emergency declaration should give the governor the authority to waive or suspend “application of tax due dates and penalties relating to collection of taxes.” State law says an action like that could last no longer than 30 days without an extension by the Legislature.
“In addition to the substantial public health impacts, this pandemic is having pronounced ramifications on families and small businesses as they struggle with the radical changes in everyday lives,” the county leaders wrote. “We are asking that you use your authority to delay any payments for residential and commercial taxpayers in hardship situations and waive any penalties and interest.”
Layoffs have begun and could create housing problems for renters, homeowners and landlords, the county leaders added.
“We worry we will see an uptick in evictions, homelessness, and perhaps foreclosures,” they wrote. “While we know there may be some federal funds available, we urge you to take this immediate action to provide property tax relief to homeowners and businesses.”
In an interview, Wilson said Inslee’s office has expressed interest in the idea and has been trying to make sure the move would be legal.
“We’ve been talking to the governor’s office for the last week,” he said.
In an email Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Inslee said the governor’s office is “looking at all options to help Washingtonians through this extremely challenging situation.”
“There are ongoing meetings and discussions now of the many options on the table,” said the spokeswoman, Tara Lee.
Under the county proposal, taxpayers would need to demonstrate impacts from the coronavirus crisis. The goal would be to make that process easy, Wilson said.
“In terms of public cash flow, we can’t just tell everybody they get an extra 30 days,” he said. “But we don’t want to put people through a bureaucratic nightmare when they’re already facing tremendous uncertainty.”