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Reforming our inequitable tax code would help undo the damage of generations of racist policies, new brief shows
Like most U.S. institutions, Washington’s state and local tax code is embedded in a deep history of racism and oppression that continues to harm residents of color across the state. Despite this problematic history, Washington’s tax code can be a potent tool for helping to eliminate some of the barriers to opportunity that persist for communities of color.
Our new policy brief, “Washington’s Tax Code is an Untapped Resource to Advance Racial Justice,” describes how these barriers to economic opportunity are the result of racist policies, in and outside of our tax code, enacted and perpetuated over many generations. From discriminatory taxes on Chinese laborers in the 19th century to attempts to impede on Native American fishing rights to the employment discrimination that persists today, Washington has a lengthy history of implementing policies that benefit white residents at the expense of communities of color.
The brief – the latest in the Budget & Policy Center’s Progress in Washington series – shows that, due to systemic racism, many Washingtonians of color are far more likely than white households to be among those with the lowest incomes (see graph below). And people of color – especially those who are Black, Hispanic, and Native American – are substantially less likely to have high incomes compared to whites.
Washington state has the most upside-down, or regressive, tax code in nation, in which the poorest fifth of households – a disproportionate share of whom are people of color – pay nearly six times more of their incomes in state and local taxes than the wealthiest 1%. It’s a tax code that makes matters worse for many residents of color who are already struggling to provide for their families.
Lawmakers can and must reform Washington’s tax code so it is no longer another barrier to economic opportunity for families of color. Lawmakers should work to implement the following reforms:
Read the full report, “Washington’s Tax Code is an Untapped Resource to Advance Racial Justice” and read a fact sheet highlighting the report’s findings in English and Spanish.