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On Microsoft Campus, Teachers Protest Tax Breaks Ahead Of State Ed. Funding Debate

On a day when frenzied holiday shoppers will pay a significant sum in state sales taxes, a group of teachers is organizing a protest near the Redmond campus of a corporation that they wish paid more taxes: Microsoft.

The teachers' planned the Black Friday protest to urge state lawmakers to put corporate tax breaks, not social services, on the chopping block in their effort to find at least $2.5 billion in new funding for schools.

"Many of the families of our students can't afford the Christmas gifts they want to buy unless they go to those sales on Black Friday. They are going to be paying a lot of sales tax on Black Friday," said protest organizer and Renton teacher Julianna Dauble. "We chose it to highlight [the fact] Microsoft will not be paying taxes on Black Friday."

Between 2005 and 2012, Microsoft alone deferred more than $147 million in state sales taxes through a program for high tech businesses and research firms. Combined, the other 90 companies that qualify for the waiver deferred roughly $90 million for the same period.

When asked to comment, a Microsoft spokesman simply noted this tax deferral program "was scheduled by lawmakers to end at the end of this year."

Though protesters say Microsoft has avoided paying Washington state royalty taxes by accounting for its software licensing sales through a subsidiary in Nevada, the company has said the practice is legal. A key state lawmaker has said he wishes Washington could tax those sales, but he agrees with the company's interpretation of the law.

While protesters name other companies like Boeing, which have benefited from other tax breaks, Dauble say they're starting with a rally at Microsoft because the company "represents something that is truly broken in our system."

The protesters, part of a group called the Washington Badass Teachers, plan to gather on a Highway 520 overpass in Redmond less than a block from the Microsoft campus. They say they'll be carrying lighted signs.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.