General Arts Tax Information
History of the Arts Education and Access Income Tax
The Arts Education and Access Income Tax was approved by Portland voters in the November 6, 2012 general election (Ballot Measure 26-146) and was due beginning tax year 2012.
The tax is $35 for each Portland resident age 18 and older that earns income above the federal poverty level and has $1,000 or more income.
In Wittemyer v. City of Portland, the Multnomah County Circuit Court ruled on June 21, 2013, that “the Arts Tax is not a Poll or Head tax as prohibited by the Oregon Constitution. […] The Arts Tax is not a head or poll tax because it is not assessed per capita. In assessing the tax, the City considers a person’s income in three distinct provisions: the tax applies only to (l) income exceeding $ 1,000, (2) non-exempt income sources, and (3) income of individuals residing in households with income above the federal poverty guidelines. Taxpayers who are under the age of 18 are exempt from the tax. The practical effect of the tax is to tax income of certain City residents within a certain income range and is therefore not a poll or head tax.” On June 8, 2016, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Multnomah County Circuit Court. On September 21, 2017, the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon affirmed the decision of the Oregon Court of Appeals and the limited judgment of the Multnomah County Circuit Court.
The Arts Tax is not included on property tax statements or water bills because any bill sent to a specific residential property (like the property tax or the water bill) will not know the number of adults that should pay the tax. For example, the property tax bill for an apartment complex with 50 units will go to the property manager or property owner, not the individuals who rent the units. There could be 50 or more individuals at that one complex that owe the tax, yet only one property tax bill is issued. Similarly, the water bill does not include any information about how many adults live at the residential address or how many have income.
Individuals Liable for the Arts Tax
City of Portland residents 18 years or older who have $1,000 or more of annual income and are in a household above the federal poverty level are liable for the Arts Tax. If your household's annual income is at or below the federal poverty level, you may request an exemption.
If you are age 18 or older by December 31 of the taxable year, you must file and pay the Arts Tax unless you are exempt. If you live with your parents, they may include you on their Arts Tax filing.
The following Portland residents are not liable for the Arts Tax:
- Individuals who are under the age of 18;
- Individuals whose household annual income is at or below the federal poverty level; and/or
- Individuals with less than $1,000 of annual income of any kind.
To determine if you are a resident of the City of Portland, you can easily check your address in Portland Maps. If your address has "Portland" in the Jurisdiction, you reside within the City of Portland.
If you moved into or out of Portland during the tax year, you are still liable for the entire $35 tax. There is no proration of the Arts Tax even if you were only a resident of Portland for any part of the year.
Adult children living with their parents who earned less than $1,000 of income during the tax year are not liable for the Arts Tax. Adult children can be added to their parent's tax filing. Indicate whether the adult children have income and owe the $35 tax, or if they have annual income under $1,000 and don't owe the tax.
If the student is 18 or older, earned $1,000 or more of income during the tax year, lives in a household that is above the federal poverty level, and is a Portland resident, they would be liable for the Arts Tax. It does not matter where they attend school. Generally, college students are considered Portland residents if they come home to Portland during school breaks.
All income is considered, regardless of amount. Income can be from wages, self-employment, investments, rentals, retirement, disability, unemployment, spousal/child support, or any other source. "Income" does not include any income a city is prohibited from taxing by state or federal laws.
"Income" for purposes of the household exemption being at or below the federal poverty level is defined differently.
In cases where one spouse is "income earning," only that person would be liable for the $35 tax.
If the non-working spouse earned $1,000 or more of annual income, they are considered to be “income-earning” and would also be liable for the $35 tax.
If the roommates are financially independent and are merely sharing the housing expenses, they would be considered two (2) separate households (even though they are occupying the same residence).
Arts Tax Filing Requirements
The Arts Tax is due at the same time as your Federal tax return (generally April 15). There is no extension to file or pay the Arts Tax.
You can file and pay your Arts Tax or claim an exemption online, by mail, or in person.
Online Arts Tax payments will post to your account on the next business day. A payment that is mailed will be considered timely if it is postmarked before the due date of the Arts Tax. Please do not mail cash.
Remember that you are required to file even if you do not owe the tax. Providing your email address when you file, whether online or printed form, will allow the Revenue Division to send you an electronic reminder notice next year.
Filing for the Arts Tax requires only five (5) pieces of information: your name, address, email address, your full Social Security number, and your year of birth.
Social Security Number Requirement
Much like the IRS and Oregon Department of Revenue (DOR), the City requires a full Social Security number (SSN) and complete date of birth to correctly identify individuals. By providing your SSN and year of birth, it ensures your Arts Tax filing and payment are properly applied to your account. We also need the year of birth to ensure we do not assess the tax on someone under 18 years old.
Disclosure of your SSN is required. This requirement is authorized under the Federal Privacy Act of 1974, the Tax Reform Act of 1976 and the Arts Tax Administrative Rules. Your SSN will be used by the Revenue Division to assist in the administration of the Arts Tax including, but not limited to, compliance with federal Form 1099 filing requirements and comparison of Arts Tax filings to federal taxpayer information.
The safeguarding of your SSN is a top priority. The Revenue Division securely administers many tax programs that require the submission of confidential taxpayer information. According to Portland City Code 5.73.100, it is unlawful for any City employee to divulge financial information submitted or disclosed to the City under the terms of the Arts Education and Access Income Tax, including Social Security numbers. Our workspace is secure and confidential information in our database is encrypted. The Revenue Division has been approved to receive federal taxpayer information directly from the IRS and is therefore subject to IRS physical and electronic security requirements as well.
A filing reminder with an Arts Tax Return will be mailed around mid-March. To ensure all Portland households are adequately notified of the tax, we send a reminder to all addresses prior to the due date. Even if you have already paid your Arts Tax, we send the reminder in case others in your household still need to file or there are new residents at that location.
The City sends filing reminders to "Portland Resident" to ensure that every address gets a notification before the filing deadline. If the City sends general reminder notices with specific names on them, the notice will be forwarded to the resident if they have moved. This means their old residence, which presumably has new occupants, will not get a notice.
Additionally, sending a separate notice to every individual taxpayer is expensive. The City wants to use financial resources wisely and doesn’t want to waste money by sending multiple notices to the same household.
Paying the Arts Tax
Taxpayers that itemize deductions on their federal income tax return will generally be able to deduct their Arts Tax payment paid on their Schedule A (as State and Local Income Taxes). Consult your tax advisor if you have questions.
You may file and pay the Arts Tax for any adult, even if they don't live with you. If you file online, first you will be asked for your Portland home address (this could be your home address or the address of the person/people you are filing for), billing email, and for the number of taxfilers (you can file for income earning and non-income earning adults). The billing email address and home address will copy to all taxfilers but you can change this information for any (or all) taxfilers. You may file for another adult, your spouse, a parent, or an adult child. You will then be able to pay for everyone in a single payment transaction. If you live outside of Portland you can also file for someone who does live in Portland.
Outside Collections Agencies
Most Portland residents who owe the Arts Tax pay it voluntarily and on time. For those who don’t, the Revenue Division makes multiple attempts to encourage taxpayers to file and pay their tax before it is referred to a third-party collection agency. This includes a “final demand” letter sent to the taxpayer’s last known address making it clear that the account may be referred to a collection agency. Third-party collection agencies are commonly used by government and the private sector to collect delinquent debt because they have economies of scale and specialize in this work in ways that general government and the private sector cannot. Outsourcing delinquent Arts Tax debt allows the City to keep the cost of collections relatively low so more of the tax dollars go to the schools and programs funded by the Arts Tax. If the Revenue Division did not use collection agencies, some people would end up not paying the tax, violating City code, and creating inequity for those who pay. This in turn would lead to lower compliance and reduced revenue. The Revenue Division is committed to fair enforcement of the City Code.
A $15 penalty will be assessed the day after the Arts Tax due date. Generally, this penalty is assessed on April 16.
An additional $20 penalty will be assessed if the Arts Tax is unpaid six months or more after the Arts Tax due date. Generally, this penalty is assessed on October 16.
If you have been assessed penalties for the Arts Tax, you may request a penalty waiver. In order for your request to be considered, all outstanding tax must be paid and the request must be in writing.
If your penalty waiver request is denied, you will receive a bill in the mail within 60 days of submitting your request.
Refunds will be issued only in the event of overpayment, duplicate payments, or a payment made when no tax was due. All refund requests must be made in writing.
Your Social Security number is required because IRS regulations require the City to file a 1099 GOV for any income tax refund of $10 or more. All 1099's require the full Social Security number when transmitted to the IRS.