Washington Classification of Property for Taxes, Amendment to Article VII Secs. 1-4 (1930)
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It was the 14th amendment approved to the Washington State Constitution subsequent to its adoption in 1889.
Scholars Robert Utter and Hugh Spitzer say that Amendment 14 was approved in 1930 "at the culmination of a long campaign by the Grange, a farm-based group." Prior to Amendment 14, all real estate in Washington was assessed equally for property tax purposes. Amendment 14 allowed the division of property into different classes. One objective was to allow personal property to be taxed at a rate capturing its value, without simultaneously imposing high taxes on other forms of property.
Before Amendment 14
The original Section 1 of Article 7, before Amendment 14 passed, said:
- "ANNUAL STATE TAX -- All property in the state, not exempt under the laws of the United States, or under this Constitution, shall be taxed in proportion to its value, to be ascertained as provided by law. The legislature shall provide by law for an annual tax sufficient, with other sources of revenue to defray the estimated ordinary expenses of the state for each fiscal year. And for the purpose of paying the state debt, if there be any, the legislature shall provide for levying a tax annually, sufficient to pay the annual interest and principal of such debt within twenty years from the final passage of the law creating the debt."
Sections deleted by Amendment 14
The original Section 2 of Article 7 was deleted by Amendment 14. It said:
- "TAXATION -- UNIFORMITY AND EQUALITY -- EXEMPTION -- The legislature shall provide by law a uniform and equal rate of assessment and taxation on all property in the state, according to its value in money, and shall prescribe such regulations by general law as shall secure a just valuation for taxation of all property, so that every person and corporation shall pay a tax in proportion to the value of his, her, or its property; Provided, that a deduction of debts from credits may be authorized: Provided, further, that the property of the United States and of the state, counties, school districts and other municipal corporations, and such other property as the legislature may by general laws provide, shall be exempt from taxation."
The original Section 3 of Article 7 was deleted by Amendment 14. It said:
- "ASSESSMENT OF CORPORATE PROPERTY -- The legislature shall provide by general law for the assessing and levying of taxes on all corporation property as near as may be by the same methods as are provided for the assessing and levying of taxes on individual property."
The original Section 4 of Article 7 was deleted by Amendment 14. It said:
- "NO SURRENDER OF POWER OR SUSPENSION OF TAX ON CORPORATE PROPERTY -- The power to tax corporations and corporate property shall not be surrendered or suspended by any contract or grant to which the state shall be a party."
After Amendment 14
After Amendment 14 was approved, Section 1 of Article 7 said:
- "TAXATION -- The power of taxation shall never be suspended, surrendered or contracted away. All taxes shall be uniform upon the same class of property within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax and shall be levied and collected for public purposes only. The word "property" as used herein shall mean and include everything, whether tangible or intangible, subject to ownership. All real estate shall constitute one class: Provided, That the legislature may tax mines and mineral resources and lands devoted to reforestation by either a yield tax or an ad valorem tax at such rate as it may fix, or by both. Such property as the legislature may by general laws provide shall be exempt from taxation. Property of the United States and of the state, counties, school districts and other municipal corporations, and credits secured by property actually taxed in this state, not exceeding in value the value of such property, shall be exempt from taxation. The legislature shall have power, by appropriate legislation, to exempt personal property to the amount of three hundred ($300.00) dollars for each head of a family liable to assessment and taxation under the provisions of the laws of this state of which the individual is the actual bona fide owner."
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