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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

August 28, 2013 at 4:48 PM

Study: Washington has one of highest sales-tax rates in country

Consumers in Washington state pay the fourth highest sales taxes in the country, according to a new data from the Tax Foundation.

The report on combined state and local sales taxes put Washington’s average rate at 8.87 percent — a 6.5 percent state tax plus an average 2.37 percent local tax rate. In Seattle, the standard local rate is 3.0 percent, including 0.4 percent to the regional transit authority.

Washington’s combined average rate placed behind only Tennessee (9.44 percent), Arkansas (9.18 percent) and Louisiana (8.89 percent), according to the nonpartisan national think tank.

The outcome is no surprise, given that Washington is one of nine states without an individual income tax (Tennessee is another). But local Republicans still seized on the study as evidence that the sales tax should be lowered.

“We should continue to find opportunities to provide relief and create some incentives to our businesses to promote good economic growth and jobs,” said state Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, the ranking Republican on the state House Budget Committee. “This continued push to increase that sales tax would just do more to discourage economic growth in our state.”

Democratic state Rep. Reuven Carlyle disagreed, citing recent state Department of Revenue information that ranked Washington 36th for overall state and local tax burden when compared to income.

“Because we’re one of the only states in the country without an income tax, of course we have a high reliance on sales taxes, so this is hardly an intellectually interesting sliver of news,” Carlyle, D-Seattle, the chairman of the state House Finance Committee, wrote in an email. “The more substantive question is whether we are on the path toward being a low tax, low service, low quality of life state because of our reluctance to invest adequate resources in public education, transportation, universities, parks, Puget Sound cleanup and more. We’re among the most educated, engaged, progressive and courageous 21st Century states, yet our tax policy is frozen in a 20th Century patchwork of inefficiency.”

Three states do not have any state or local sales taxes, according to the Tax Foundation: Oregon, Delaware and New Hampshire. Alaska and Montana do not have a state sales tax but do have local sales taxes.

Comments | More in State government | Topics: Gary Alexander, reuven carlyle, sales tax


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