$13 million dollars.
That’s how much the City of Portland is owed in unpaid “Arts Taxes," and if you’re one of the people who hasn’t paid up, you might want to reconsider.
A “final demand for payment” letter has gone out to 41,000 people since early September who owe $100 or more in back taxes, warning them their accounts will go to collections if they aren’t settled within 30 days.
A spokesperson for the city’s revenue department told Fox 12 the letters started going out September 12 and they are working; more than $650,000 in back payments have come in since then.
The Arts Tax is $35 per person annually for everyone who lives in Portland, is over the age of 18 and makes at least $1,000 a year.
It was passed by voters in 2012 to support the arts in several school districts and arts-based nonprofits – but it hasn’t been without controversy.
The legality of the tax has been challenged in at least two lawsuits and a number of Portland residents have flat-out refused to pay it.
In June 2013, the Multnomah County Circuit Court ruled the tax “is not a Poll or Head tax as prohibited by the Oregon Constitution,” but that ruling was appealed. In June 2016, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the decision, ruling that the tax is, in fact, legal.
“It’s a legal tax and I think people should pay their taxes,” said Portland resident Patrick Easley. “It’s for a good cause and so I think people should start paying up, and the city is appropriately pursuing those who didn’t pay.”
Fox 12 tried reaching out to those who are opposed to the tax, but were unable to do so Monday.
A spokesperson for the city’s revenue department said nobody with outstanding Arts Taxes has been sent to collections yet, but it’s a step they’re ready to take to hold everyone to the same level of accountability.
If accounts do go to collections, the outside agency will add 23 percent to the balance of the debt.
To learn more or pay an outstanding balance, visit www.portlandoregon.gov/revenue/60076.
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