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KATU Investigators

City's enforcement of arts tax is nil

City's enforcement of arts tax is nil

PORTLAND, Ore. – Last year more than one-third of Portland taxpayers, around 145,000 people, failed to pay the city's arts tax. The $35 per person tax was approved in 2012.

Now, we're learning the city is not doing much to enforce it.
The arts tax raises money for arts in education. Most of it, around 90 percent, goes to public schools to hire art teachers and pay for programs.

To go after people who haven't paid the tax, the city is sending out letters to citizens it believes haven't paid. Officials don't yet have a comprehensive list of nonpayers and are cross-referencing databases, according to a city spokeswoman.

The city is considering hiring a collection agency but that won’t happen this year, and may never happen because officials aren't yet sure if it's even worth the expense.

Taxpayers we spoke with had mixed feelings about the situation. 

"It happens too many times," said business owner Gerald Bulcher, who opposes the tax. "I see too many people getting away with too many things. They're not paying for themselves."

"A lot of people just can't afford it, and it may just be as simple as that," said Anna Featherly, a mother of two who supports the tax.

The city is talking about possibly using collection agencies next year, but no final decision has been made.

The arts tax generated about $8 million in revenue for 2012.

For more on the arts tax, including who's required to pay it, click here.

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