© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

St. Louis settles lawsuit over earnings tax, reopens window for refunds

The City of St. Louis City Hall.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis City Hall

Updated at 2 p.m. June 14 with comments from plaintiffs and their attorneys

People who live outside St. Louis and worked remotely for companies based in the city during the early years of the coronavirus pandemic are again eligible for refunds on their earnings tax.

St. Louis Collector of Revenue Gregory F.X. Daly announced Friday that starting July 1, his office will reopen the window to apply for refunds for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 tax years. The decision settles a lawsuit brought by six nonresident employees of companies based in St. Louis.

“The city and the collector have decided now to do the right thing and pay everybody their refunds,” said Bevis Schock, one of the plaintiffs' two attorneys.

The 1% tax, which is levied on the salaries of people who either live or work in the city, makes up a third of the city’s general revenue fund. The six plaintiffs had routinely submitted applications for refunds for days they had traveled for business. But the law establishing the earnings tax was silent on remote work, and when those arrangements exploded in 2020 because of the pandemic, Daly’s office decided that remote work was not eligible for refunds.

The six sued. A circuit judge ruled in January 2023 that the city had wrongly interpreted the law and granted them refunds plus interest. The Court of Appeals recently upheld the ruling but again applied it only to those six individuals. Daly’s decision makes anyone in the same situation eligible to receive refunds.

“My office, along with the city, chose to fight this lawsuit because we believed our actions were consistent with the terms of the statute and the right thing to do on behalf of the people of the city of St. Louis,” Daly said in a statement.

Information about the refund process will be available on the Collector of Revenue's website by July 1.

(L-R) Ray Jaeger, plaintiff; Marc Kolaks, plaintiff; Mark Milton; Attorney; Bevis Schock, Attorney; Christian Stein, plaintiff; and Mark Boles, plaintiff; announce a settlement with the City of St. Louis during a press conference held at the law offices of W. Bevis Schock on Friday June 14, 2024.
Theo R. Welling
St. Louis Public Radio
From left: Plaintiffs Ray Jaeger and Marc Kolaks, attorneys Mark Milton and Bevis Schock and plaintiffs Christian Stein and Mark Boles announce an earnings tax settlement with the City of St. Louis on Friday.

Schock encouraged people to take advantage of the process.

“It’s money sitting on the ground waiting for people to pick up,” he said.

But despite the push for people to access their refunds, Schock’s co-counsel, Mark Milton, said the lawsuit was never about harming the city financially.

“Government works for the people, and when you treat people unfairly, when you do things that are contrary to well-established law, that is not good for government and that is not good for the city,” he said.

Christian Stein, one of the six plaintiffs, agreed.

“There is absolutely no ill will against the city,” he said. “It’s just a sense of right and wrong, fairness, being treated equally.”

The refunds will apply only for days that people worked outside the city. The window to submit an application for those three tax years will be open from July 1 through Sept. 30, and Daly expects payments will be completed by the end of 2024.

The city has set aside $26 million to cover the cost of the refunds and interest payments. Daly said more than 2,100 taxpayers had already filed appeals because the city had denied their refunds for the 2020 through 2022 tax years.

Applications for refunds for the 2023 tax year are due by April 15, 2025.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.