Wittemyer v. City of Portland

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Tax Law
  • Date Filed: 06-08-2016
  • Case #: A154844
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Haselton, S.J. for the Court; Duncan, P.J.; & Lagesen, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

A "poll or head tax" has two simultaneous criteria: (1) the tax must be assessed per capita, and (2) it must be a uniform, fixed amount. Both are required, and neither alone is sufficient.

Portland resident Wittemyer brought an action seeking a declaration that Portland City Code 5.73.020, which imposes a $35 tax on "each income-earning resident" for support of the arts in the public schools is a "poll or head tax" in violation of Article IX, section 1a, of the Oregon Constitution. Wittemyer appealed the trial court's judgment in the city's favor. The Court held that a "poll or head tax" has two simultaneous criteria: (1) the tax must be assessed per capita, and (2) it must be a uniform, fixed amount. Both are required, and neither alone is sufficient. The Art Tax was not per capita, but since the tax exemptions depended on the level and source of individual income, the tax was not assessed on each eligible person within that per capita class. The Art Tax is therefore not a "poll or head tax" proscribed by Article IX, section 1a. Affirmed.

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