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Lawsuit seeks city earnings tax refund due to virus

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal lawsuit seeks a return of the 1 percent St. Louis earnings tax paid by people who normally work in the city but instead worked from their suburban homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of three suburban St. Louis residents seeks class action status, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. If successful, the lawsuit could cost the city millions of dollars.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Bevis Schock, said last year that he planned to file a class-action lawsuit after St. Louis Collector of Revenue Gregory F.X. Daily issued a policy barring city earnings tax refunds for employees working outside city limits.

Thousands of people – particularly white-collar office workers – who work in St. Louis but live outside the city have worked from home since March 2020 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Post-Dispatch reports that in past years, St. Louis has allowed refunds to workers for days they traveled and worked outside city limits. Those refunds amounted to about $2.9 million to an estimated 4,000 people in the year before the pandemic. But that changed this year as thousands worked from home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“The way we view it, you and your company have agreed [to have you] work at home. You’re still utilizing all the computer software that your company provides” from its base in the city, Daly told the Post-Dispatch in June.

More than one-third of the city’s general revenue, or about $180 million last year, comes from the tax. About 75 percent of the earning tax revenue comes from nonresidents, the lawsuit says.

A city spokesman declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported on Wednesday 406 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths. The state has reported 489,374 confirmed cases and 8,498 deaths since the pandemic began. The city of St. Louis has tallied 20,626 confirmed cases and 452 deaths.

MetroSTL.com staff contributed to this report.

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