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New sales tax could help L.A. homeless


 Proposed sales tax increase could help reduce homelessness in Los Angeles.

Update, 3.13.2017: Voters in Los Angeles County appear to have approved Measure H, which increases sales tax by 0.25 percent for a period of 10 years. Funds generated by the tax will be used to prevent and combat homelessness in Los Angeles County. The measure, which needs a supermajority to win, is winning 67.62% to 32.28% as of this writing. Results are expected to be certified later this month.

While declining nationwide, homelessness is growing in a number of American cities, including Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle. The homeless population in the city of Los Angeles grew by 11% from January 2014 to January 2015, and the number of people living without shelter is continuing to rise. At last count, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority put the number of homeless in the city at 26,000; in the county, it's closer to 47,000.

The cost of caring for individuals and families without homes is also rising. A proposed 10-year, quarter-cent sales tax could help generate some of the revenue needed to get people off the street. On December 6, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to put the 0.25% sales tax to a vote of the people in a special county-wide election on March 7, 2017. If approved, it should raise approximately $355 million annually, for a period of ten years.

In addition to the sales tax, county supervisors unanimously approved a motion to have homelessness declared a county emergency. The board has been urging state officials to declare homelessness a state of emergency for months, as has the Los Angeles City Council (LA Times).

Homelessness is an enormous problem, but it seems that the people of Los Angeles are willing to pay to help solve it. On November 8, 2016, Los Angeles County voters approved the issuance of $1.2 billion in bonds to fund housing for homeless people and people at risk of becoming homeless (Measure HHH). According to county officials, the proposed sales tax increase would be “a complement” to the bonds. Revenue generated by the tax could help pay the rent for new housing built under Measure HHH.

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Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.