Washington ranks near bottom for taxes per income

February 5, 2013

 NEW — 4 p.m. Feb. 5, 2013

Washington ranked near the bottom in state and local taxes paid per $1,000 of personal income in 2010, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data published by the state Department of Revenue.

Washingtonians paid $96.08 in taxes for every $1,000 in income, the second-lowest rate in 50 years. Officials recorded the lowest rate in 2009 at $93.24 per $1,000 in income.

Even though 2010 taxes climbed higher than in 2009, Washington dropped a notch among the states from its 35th ranking in 2009 to 36th in 2010 because taxes in some other states increased more.

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Liquor sales rebound in months after privatization

January 1, 2013

Consumers stockpiled spirits in May, leading to a June sales slump, but in the months since private liquor sales started, spirit sales rebounded, state revenue officials reported Dec. 4.

The state Department of Revenue said spirit sales by volume increased 2.9 percent between June and September from the same period a year earlier.

Retailers sold almost 13.6 million liters of spirits from June through September, compared to the 13.2 million liters sold at state-run liquor stores during the same period a year earlier.

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Governor urges Congress to pass sales tax bill

December 4, 2012

Gov. Chris Gregoire urged Congress on Nov. 26 — Cyber Monday, the largest online shopping day all year — to require online businesses to collect sales tax.

The governor said Washington businesses face unfair competition from online and mail-order retailers that fail to collect sales taxes.

The proposed Marketplace Fairness Act aims to give states the option to collect sales and use tax revenues from out-of-state sellers.

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Governor urges Congress to require online businesses to collect sales tax

November 27, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. Nov. 27, 2012

Gov. Chris Gregoire urged Congress on Monday — Cyber Monday, the largest online shopping day all year — to require online businesses to collect sales tax.

The governor said Washington businesses face unfair competition from online and mail-order retailers that fail to collect sales taxes. Gregoire said Congress should address the issue by passing legislation to treat out-of-state sellers the same as local businesses.

The proposed Marketplace Fairness Act aims to give states the option to collect sales and use tax revenues from out-of-state sellers. U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., introduced the bill a year ago.

Congress is now reconvening to address expiring tax provisions and the looming “fiscal cliff” crisis. Gregoire said the focus on taxation issues is a good opportunity to address the online sales tax legislation.

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Liquor sales increase statewide after June slump

October 2, 2012

Retailers sold more liquor in July than state stores sold a year earlier, according to data from the state Department of Revenue released Sept. 10.

In July, sales by volume increased 15.4 percent over July 2011 sales, after declining 9.4 percent for June and rising 26.6 percent in May.

Sales spiked in May as consumers prepared for the transition from state stores to private retailers, and then declined in June, presumably due to the inventories built up in May.

Overall, Washingtonians purchased 10.6 million liters of spirits in May, June and July, compared to 9.5 million liters for the same period last year.

The average price paid for spirits increased 16.2 percent in July compared to 17.2 percent in June.

Washingtonians voted to privatize liquor sales by passing Costco-backed Initiative 1183 last year.

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Department of Revenue launches tax app for businesses

September 4, 2012

The state Department of Revenue recently launched a smartphone app to allow users to look up sales and use tax rates for any Washington location.

The app is designed to help businesses in making deliveries or providing retail services at multiple locations statewide. Under state law, the sales tax must be coded to the destination of a shipped or delivered product.

The agency initially launched the app for the iPhone; the Android app is in the works. The app also works on the iPad. Users can download it at the agency’s website, www.dor.wa.gov/TaxRateMobile.

“We are using the latest technologies to constantly adapt to the changing needs of taxpayers,” Janet Shimabukuro, Taxpayer Services Division assistant director, said in a statement.

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State property tax revenue tops $9 billion

August 21, 2012

Statewide property tax revenue increased 1.6 percent, or $143 million, to $9.3 billion in 2012, state Department of Revenue officials reported late last month.

The agency attributed $37 million of increased revenue from 2011 to construction.

The average assessed value for a single-family residence statewide dropped from $243,998 to $229,908 — and the average tax fell $10 to $2,708. King County is home to the highest average assessed value ($350,975) and average tax ($3,992) in the state.

Garfield County reported the lowest in both categories — $66,141 for average assessed value and $682 for average tax.

State officials said about 40 percent of property taxes result from voter-approved local levies and bonds and levy lid lifts for local taxing jurisdictions.

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Agencies’ website is meant to crack down on fraud

May 15, 2012

Several state agencies have rolled out a tool to help protect consumers from fraud.

The agency encourages consumers to go to www.suspectfraud.com to see if a business is registered and in good standing. In addition, links on suspectfraud.com allow consumers to check to see if a registered business is properly licensed, owes the state taxes, has had complaints filed against it or is the subject of state enforcement actions.

The site is a collaboration among the state departments of Revenue, Labor & Industries, and Employment Security to cut down on businesses operating beyond regulators’ reach and to pursue tax evaders.

Concerned citizens also can use the site to notify the agencies about possible tax evasion or other types of fraud, such as illegally claiming unemployment benefits, billing the state for unnecessary medical services, or evading state taxes on boats, planes and vehicles.

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Issaquah sales decline, state sales increase

May 8, 2012

Taxable retail sales in the state increased 3 percent to $103.8 billion in calendar year 2011, the state Department of Revenue reported April 27.

The 3 percent gain for 2011 compares to a 0.1 percent drop in overall sales in 2010. Overall sales dropped 11.2 percent in 2009 due to the recession.

In 2011, retail trade, a component of all taxable retail sales including retailers but excluding other industries, increased 3.5 percent from 2010 to $47.9 billion.

Construction dropped 1.7 percent last year, a smaller decline than the 12 percent drop in 2010. In addition, new and used auto sales climbed 8.3 percent last year, compared to a 2.8 percent gain in 2010.

In 2011, accommodations and food services rose 5.1 percent; apparel and accessories increased 5.5 percent; and sales of building materials, garden equipment and supplies declined 0.3 percent.

Sales of taxable retail sales in Issaquah amounted to $1.1 billion last year — down 2.61 percent from 2010.

King County recorded $40.4 billion in taxable retail sales last year — a 4.2 percent increase from the previous year. Overall retail trade in King County amounted to $16.7 billion — a 4.6 percent increase from 2010.

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State orders businesses to stop collecting expired sales tax

April 3, 2012

Consumers should scrutinize bar and restaurant receipts a little more closely, after state officials said some establishments continue to collect a long-expired King County sales tax.

The county used the revenue from the half-percent sales tax to pay for Safeco Field construction, but the tax expired Oct. 1. In the meantime, the tax on food and beverages at bars and restaurants remained in place at many businesses.

“Short of auditing every business, we don’t really know whether they collect it or not, but our sense is that it’s pretty widespread,” state Department of Revenue spokesman Mike Gowrylow said March 30.

King County bars and restaurants should collect the state and local sales tax rate of 8.6 percent to 9.5 percent — not 9.1 percent to 10 percent. Issaquah is inside the Sound Transit taxing district, so consumers pay 9.5 percent. (The regional transit authority collects a 0.9 percent sales tax.)

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