(The Center Square) – Two Ohioans filed lawsuits this week challenging Ohio tax law that allows cities to tax income of workers who, the lawsuits say, do not live in nor work in the municipalities.
The Buckeye Institute, an independent research and educational group, filed the lawsuits on behalf of Eric Denison and Josh Schaad against the cities of Columbus and Cincinnati. The lawsuits ask the court to declare unconstitutional Ohio law that allows cities to tax workers who do not live in and have not been working in those cities.
“Ohio’s dystopic novel keeps getting more convoluted,” said Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of the Buckeye Institute and one of the lawyers representing Denison and Schaad. “Not only has Ohio absurdly deemed work that was actually performed at home or elsewhere to have been performed in higher-taxed office locations, but many folks are now being forced to pay more in municipal income taxes for 2020 than they did in 2019, even though they spent less time working in Columbus and Cincinnati, respectively.”
Denison, who lives in the Columbus suburb of Westerville, and Schaad, who lives in the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash, spent time in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic working offsite.
In the past, according to the institute, both asked for and received tax refunds for work performed outside of the city limits of Columbus and Cincinnati. However, the General Assembly passed House Bill 197 last year. It deemed all work performed elsewhere because of the health emergency to have been done at the principal place of work for income tax purposes.
The two new lawsuits come seven months after the Buckeye Institute filed similar lawsuits on behalf of three of its employees against the city of Columbus. In September, the city filed a motion to dismiss, which has yet to be ruled on. Columbus also filed a motion Thursday to consolidate both of its cases. The Buckeye Institute said it doesn’t oppose that motion.
Lawmakers introduced legislation in the House and Senate last year that would have changed the state’s 60-year-old income tax structure that taxes workers in the city they work by modifying income tax withholding rules for COVID-19-related work from home.
Neither bill made it out of committee.