Twitter Tax Break Debated in San Francisco

    March 21, 2011
    Josh Wolford

As Twitter celebrates five years of breaking news, trends and Kanye West musings, it looks as though the San Francisco based company is the focal point of a political battle in its own backyard.  The fight is over proposed tax breaks that would benefit companies in certain economically stagnant areas by extending payroll tax exemptions to all new employees during a six year period.

The debate between city progressives and newly elected non-progressives centers on whether the proposed tax breaks promote business growth or simply amount to corporate welfare.  Proponents of the tax breaks say it will add an incentive for businesses to either relocate or simply stay put in San Francisco.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

Now headquartered in the South of Market, Twitter is eyeing a move to Brisbane. Twitter CFO Ali Rowghani informed city officials last week that if the proposed tax exemption were approved, the company would move into the vacant Furniture Mart on Market Street just east of Ninth Street. It projects growing its current workforce of 350 to 3,000 by 2013.

That amounts to a whole lot of new employee tax breaks.  Opponents argue that taking revenue away from the city and giving it to wealthy corporations is a bad idea.  Former councilman Chris Daly is quoted as saying, “We’re here talking about giving away, or foregoing, up to $22 million (in tax revenue) to a corporation valued in the billions.  Someone needs to stand up again to the corporate threats and do the people’s work.”

The proposed legislation is set to go in front of the Budget Committee on Wednesday.  Progressives on the Board of Supervisors have been recently replaced by more conservative members, and because of this political shift, it is expected to pass.  Even so, it would be likely for the legislation to end up as a ballot measure, allowing the people to decide in the next election.

Are the locations of companies like Twitter important to city residents?  Or is this another case of the rich getting richer?  Tell us what you think.