Center Plate: The race is on for I-1183 petitions

June 23, 2011

The race is on for I-1183 petitions

On Friday, June 17, the Thurston County Superior Court ruled on the final ballot title and description of I-1183, paving the way to gather signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.In order to qualify, more than 300,000 signatures must be gathered on petitions and turned into the secretary of state by July 8.

The initiative, which eliminates the state monopoly on the sale and distribution of liquor, will allow qualified private retailers and distributors to compete for consumer’s (including restaurant’s) business. Market competition will bring about much-needed choice and convenience for Washington consumers, including businesses that sell liquor in their restaurants, bars or taverns. Find out how you can get involved.

Restaurant employee meal tax exemption takes effect July 1

The WRA’s priority proactive issue this year was pursuing a tax exemption for restaurants that provide free meals to their employees. Since the 1940s, restaurants have been required to pay sales tax on the value of meals they provide for free to their employees, and consequently B&O tax. While this law had been on the books for decades, the Department of Revenue reported only a 13% compliance rate.

With record deficits and the worst economic climate, the state began conducting audits, as they should, to collect revenue from businesses that were not paying taxes owed. After decades of restaurants hardly ever seeing a tax auditor, restaurants were finding out the hard way this requirement existed.

The WRA worked with the DOR to draft language to exempt free employee meals. Sen. Ed Murray, Sen. Mark Schoesler, Rep. Eric Pettigrew and Rep. Ed Orcutt sponsored the bill. The Senate version of the bill passed unanimously, and in the House only one member voted against the bill. The legislation will take effect July 1, 2011.

Federal health care exchanges positioned to change industry

State health care exchanges required by the year-old federal health care law will fundamentally transform how restaurant employers and employees access health care. The Washington State Legislature passed a new law beginning the establishment of one here.

The shift will not be in how health care is provided. Instead, significant changes are on the horizon for a world where individuals and families—not employers—own their health care policy, manage their health care and health care spending and are engaged directly in choosing their health care services. Neither government nor the private sector is ready for this transformation. Read more.

IRS increases standard mileage rates

The Internal Revenue Service today announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rates for the final six months of 2011. Taxpayers may use the optional standard rates to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business and other purposes. The rate will increase to 55.5 cents a mile for all business miles driven from July 1, 2011, through Dec. 31, 2011. This is an increase of 4.5 cents from the 51 cent rate in effect for the first six months of 2011, as set forth in Revenue Procedure 2010-51. Read on.

Be on the lookout for…

The WRA’s 2011 Legislative Review coming next month in Washington Restaurant Magazine. We’ll give you an complete overview of how the restaurant industry fared this past session and how we achieved our goals on your behalf.

Read more