Monday, May 9, 2011

Washington State Must Really Be Broke

   I have mentioned the sale of the company I work for here and there. I am now working for the new owners but feel I have had to sell my soul to do so. I am not sure how sustainable it is going to be.

   I also mentioned that the State of Washington came after me for business taxes in there and here. Real quick, here's what happened in a nutshell: I was asked by the company I worked for to whom I was a sub-contractor -- not an employee, despite having to work on their terms ("Do you want to work for me or not")  -- to sign a two-and-a-half-year back-dated form stating that I had my own business and operated as an independent contractor. No big deal, I thought -- I have "owned and operated" this business over the past ten years in Oregon, North Carolina, and now, Washington.

   A couple weeks later I received a notice from the State of Washington saying that I was operating a business without a license and had not been paying small business taxes. I called and said that I had never heard of such a thing and was told, "Yeah, you'll find that Washington does things a little differently." I asked how I was supposed to know about this different way of doing things and was told this was pretty much the normal way -- do business in the state for a few years and eventually they'll find ya and ding ya. Wow! Thanks, Washington!

   So I bought my license (fortunately a small business license is a lot cheaper than exams and licenses for manicurists, estheticians, and hair stylists which cost us hundreds of dollars), filed and paid my taxes. After a couple months of phone calls, mailings, and online interactions, the State of Washington was almost $150 richer. I would almost be willing to bet they paid more than that in time and effort to get that money out of me. Whatever.

   I have recently learned that -- at the same time all of this was happening -- the State of Washington was going after my former employers for whom I was an independent contractor (as were several others) saying that they owe back taxes for us as employees.

   Basically, the state went after the people and the business saying, "These people are employees or they're not employees, but either way we're getting money from someone."

   I also learned just the other day that, if a waitperson in Washington is tipped voluntarily, that's fine. However, if the tip is automatic (i.e. large parties are often have a gratuity automatically added onto their bill), the business (i.e. restaurant, bar, etc.) is expected to pay taxes on that money. What the hell?!?

   Turns out the state has gone after the previous owners for back taxes on automatic gratuities as well.
   I knew that the State of Washington was having financial trouble, but I had no idea it was this bad! It's like they're going through the sofa cushions for loose change.

   In only slightly related news, we had dinner with some friends this evening who have been gradually building a business over almost twenty years in construction and renovation. A few years ago they were worth around $3 million, but they have been spending all their time and money the past few years trying to keep the business alive. Last fall they lost the home they were living in and moved to one of their vacant properties. This week they learned they are losing everything -- including the home they live in now and their retirement property. I am so impressed with their amazing attitude about the whole thing. With what money they had they bought a used RV and are planning to pack up the family and hit the road. They say they've always wanted to travel and now is their chance. Amazing.

   How are things where you are?


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