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Group: Cities Could Lose Big If Work-From-Home Income Tax Law Changed

The city of Columbus, as seen from the Main Street bridge.
Karen Kasler
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The city of Columbus, as seen from the Main Street bridge.

There are two bills that would make changes in how income taxes are collected by the biggest cities in Ohio. And a group that advocates for municipalities is very worried about them.

The bills would repeal a law passed early in the pandemic to protect cities’ income tax revenues, and would redirect those taxes paid by employees working from home to where they live, not the cities where their offices are located.

Alison Goebel with the Greater Ohio Policy Center said the bills would cost Ohio’s six largest cities, which generate more than half of the state’s GDP, over $300 million a year.

“You can’t just say, ‘ok, we’re going to make this huge policy change in the way that income taxes is collected. Let the chips fall where they may.’ That’s irresponsible and is going to have a lot of consequences, probably many that we’re not even able to anticipate right now," Goebel said.

Goebel also notes a lawsuit filed by the conservative Buckeye Institute would hurt cities as well. That suit claims that three of its employees who live outside of Columbus shouldn’t have paid city income taxes while working during the state’s stay at home order.

Goebel said while many offices are still closed with employees working from home, now is not the time to change income tax policy.

“This has been in place for six decades. A six-month pandemic isn’t necessarily the best reason to completely gut and rearrange the tax structure without a clear solution for the communities that would be most impacted by these changes," Goebel said.

Goebel said while working from home may be around for a while, offices will still depend on sewer and water, roads and other systems maintained by cities.

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.
Karen Kasler
Contact Karen at 614/578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.