Column: On city taxes, Ohio legislators work under different rules than other Ohioans

Thomas Suddes -

Legal miracle: No matter where you live, an Ohio city is allowed to tax your income — if you work inside that city. What’s more, the GOP-ruled General Assembly last year unanimously passed House Bill 197. It lets Ohio cities tax your income even if — thanks to COVID-19 — you’re required to work outside your city job site, and instead work, say, at your suburban home.

Prime sponsors of that bill (an anti-COVID-19 package) were Republican Reps. Jena Powell, from Darke County’s Arcanum, and Derek Merrin, from suburban Toledo. Co-sponsors included future House Speaker Robert Cupp, a Lima Republican.

The municipal tax provision runs counter to case law: “The Ohio Supreme Court has been perfectly clear in binding decisions stating that cities lack the authority to tax residents who neither work nor live there,” according to Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of the Buckeye Institute, a Columbus-based free-market think thank that’s been fighting the tax grab in court.

Of course, if you’re a member of the Ohio House, or state Senate, or Ohio’s lieutenant governor, you don’t have any worries: A sweetheart 1965 law forbids the city of Columbus from charging city income tax on state salaries of General Assembly members and General Assembly employees unless they are legal residents of Columbus. (At the time, lieutenant governors were also presidents of the Senate.)

A General Assembly member is constitutionally required to be a resident of his or legislative district. That means only a comparatively few Ohio House or Senate members — those from Columbus districts — can be considered Columbus residents. But Jane or Joe Taxpayer, working at their suburban home because their big-city office is closed? Pay up — or get yourself elected to the legislature.

Thomas Suddes

To reach Thomas Suddes:, 216-408-9474

To reach Thomas Suddes:, 216-408-9474

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