What Is the Washington Excise Tax?

There is no statewide vehicle excise tax in Washington, but local Puget Sound drivers may be subject to a 1.1% excise tax. Learn more here.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
As of 2020, Washington State has repealed the statewide vehicle excise tax. There is no Washington excise tax for motor vehicles under state law. However, your municipality or county may levy an excise tax through local voter approval.
Taxes are unavoidable. In Washington, some of these taxes are calculated for you at the point of purchase (like sales tax at the sales counter). Other taxes must be paid and calculated by individual taxpayers. Excise tax is no longer levied on motor vehicles in Washington.
Here to explain everything about the now-defunct Washington excise tax is
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What is an excise tax in Washington?

An excise tax is a tax that is usually levied against items that cause some type of harm: tobacco, alcohol and gas-powered vehicles. The environmental harm caused by vehicular emissions is the justification for the excise tax.
Prior to 2020, Washington State levied an annual excise tax on vehicles. Today, that tax has been repealed and there is no longer an excise tax on motor vehicles in Washington.
Some voters in the RTA (Regional Transit Authority) region of central Puget Sound have approved an RTA MVET (motor vehicle excise tax) of 1.1%, or $110 per $10,000 of assessed vehicle value. This revenue will be invested in public transit initiatives to reduce road congestion.
There is still a statewide
car sales tax in Washington
, however. The minimum state tax amount is 6.8%, and the rate is several percentage points higher in some parts of King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties. There are
some exemptions
, although most WA drivers should expect to be subject to this car sales tax.
MORE: How to get cash for junk cars in Seattle

Calculating your excise tax payment

In areas with vehicle excise tax in Washington, the amount due is based on the value of the vehicle and its model year. This provides a standard measure of depreciation. Once a proper assessment of valuation is done, the tax rate can be determined and payment can be submitted.
For taxpayers in the Puget Sound area, here’s a table that shows how the
is calculated.
Year of Service
13 or older
To calculate Year of Service, take the current calendar year and subtract the model year, then add 1. 
Here’s an example. Let’s say you live in Seattle and you own a 2021 Toyota Prius. It’s now 2022, so your Year of Service is 2. If your MSRP was $25,550, then the taxable value of your Prius is 95% or $24,272.50. The current
is 1.1%, so you would owe $267.
The RTA MVET payment is due whenever a driver in the applicable areas of Washington renews or registers a vehicle. Washington Drivers can calculate estimated MVET

Penalties for nonpayment

There may be late fees if you do not pay MVET when it’s required. You could be unable to register your vehicle, meaning that you could not legally drive. 
If you do not want to face exorbitant interest rates (up to 50% for intentional evasion) or the suspension of your vehicle registration, make sure to pay your excise tax when you receive the notice along with your renewal notice. 
You may receive a Shortage letter if you owe MVET but were not charged at the time of renewal or registration. You should pay the amount owed in order to be legally compliant. Moving away from the Puget Sound area does not qualify you for a refund if you’ve already paid the MVET. 
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How to avoid excise tax in Washington

Local voters levy this tax, so the only way to avoid the excise tax in Washington is to vote against it—or move to an area of Washington without it.
Some types of vehicles are exempt from the motor vehicle excise tax, even in areas where the tax has been levied. These
apply to most farming vehicles, ATVs, and government vehicles. 
Weight is another important factor in determining exemptions in Washington. For instance, cargo vans are charged RTA if they weigh less than 6,000 pounds but they’re exempt if they weigh more than 6,000 pounds. The same weight distinction applies to commercial vehicles, for hire vehicles, fixed load vehicles, logging vehicles, medium electric trucks, passenger trucks, and stage trucks.
You cannot escape excise tax, but you can call 360-902-3770 to dispute the valuation of your vehicle. 
MORE: What natural disasters does homeowners insurance cover in Washington?
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How to save on car insurance in Washington

While not all Washingtonians are subject to the motor vehicle excise tax, all drivers in this state are required to carry a
minimum amount of car insurance
: 25/50/10.
Compliance doesn’t have to be complicated! With help from
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