The 2016 Washington State Sales Tax
What is the 2016 Washington Sales Tax Rate?
The Washington state sales tax rate is 6.5%, and the average WA sales tax after local surtaxes is 8.89%.
- Groceries and prescription drugs are exempt from the Washington sales tax
- Counties and cities can charge an additional local sales tax of up to 3.1%, for a maximum possible combined sales tax of 9.6%
- Washington has 726 special sales tax jurisdictions with local sales taxes in addition to the state sales tax
- Washington has a lower state sales tax than 90.4% of states
Counties and cities in Washington are allowed to charge an additional local sales tax on top of the Washington state sales tax. All unprepared food items and prescription medications (excluding sales of medical marijuana, however) are exempt from any sales tax, state or local. Additional sales taxes can be levied on specific types of services or transactions, such as car rentals, real estate sales, and hotel rooms.Also, many sovereign Native American reservations within the state have specific local sales tax laws, based on individual agreements with the state government.
If you are a Washington business owner, you can learn more about how to collect and file your Washington sales tax return at the 2016 Washington Sales Tax Handbook .
Washington Sales Tax Exemptions
Washington doesn't collect sales tax on purchases of most prescription drugs and groceries. Prepared Food is subject to special sales tax rates under Washington law. In most states, necessities such as groceries, clothes, and drugs are exempted from the sales tax or charged at a lower sales tax rate.
Some items may not be eligible for these reduced sales tax rates, such as expensive clothing, unhealthy food or drinks like soda, and certain non-essential pharmaceuticals. For sales tax purposes, Washington treats candy as a grocery, and does treat soda as a grocery. Other items including gasoline, alcohol, and cigarettes are subject to various Washington excise taxes in addition to the sales tax.
In some states, items like alcohol and prepared food (including restaurant meals and some premade supermarket items) are charged at a higher sales tax rate. Prepared Food is subject to a higher state sales tax then other items. The WA sales tax applicable to the sale of cars, boats, and real estate sales may also vary by jurisdiction. Washington's sales tax rates for commonly exempted items are as follows:
$100 Restaurant Dinner
$100 of groceries
$100 in clothes
$100 of consumer products
$10.00 sales tax
$0.00 sales tax
$6.50 sales tax
$6.50 sales tax
Washington Sales Tax Exemption Certificate
Unlike a Value Added Tax (VAT), the Washington sales tax only applies to end consumers of the product. Individuals and companies who are purchasing goods for resale, improvement, or as raw materials can use a Washington Sales Tax Exemption Form to buy these goods tax-free.
Companies or individuals who wish to make a qualifying purchase tax-free must have a Washington state sales tax exemption certificate, which can be obtained from the Washington Department of Revenue . On making an exempt purchase, Exemption Certificate holders may submit a completed Washington Sales Tax Exemption Form to the vendor instead of paying sales tax.
Sales tax exemption forms (as well as business sales tax id applications, sales tax returns, and the full Washington sales tax code) can be downloaded from the Washington Department of Revenue here .
Washington Sales Tax Calculator
Whenever you make a purchase at a licensed Washington retailer, your sales tax will be automatically calculated and added to your bill. To lookup the sales tax due on any purchase, use our Washington sales tax calculator.
Washington Use Tax
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If you buy goods and are not charged the Washington Sales Tax by the retailer, such as with online and out-of-state purchases, you are supposed to pay the 6.5% sales tax (less any foreign sales tax paid) for these items yourself as the Washington Use Tax.
Your are expected to voluntarily list your liable purchases on a Washington Use Tax Return, which should be attached with payment to your Washington Income Tax Return. Historically, compliance rates with with the Washington Use Tax have been low.
Washington Local Sales Taxes
Washington does not allow local jurisdictions like cities or counties to collect a local sales tax. The Washington state sales tax of 6.5% is applicable statewide. You can view the sales tax rates for various cities in Washington here.
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