Washington sales tax exemptions for Alaskans
Still available, but now more complicated
September 1, 2019
Alaskans who head to Washington state for a shopping trip won’t be able to enjoy the easy sales tax break they have gotten for more than 50 years. A new law enacted by Washington legislators now requires Alaska residents to save their receipts and apply post-journey for a sales tax exemption from the state’s Department of Revenue.
A move likely to increase sales tax dollars by the millions, the new system is banking upon the inaction of Alaskans and other residents from tax-exempt states like Oregon, Montana, New Hampshire, and Delaware. Case in point: Washington sales tax is currently 6.5 percent. Under the prior system, those of us in tax-exempt states filled out a form at the point of sale (store) and showed our state ID to obtain a sales tax deduction at the cash register. It wasn’t always fast, but it was immediate, and while some people didn’t always take advantage of the program, it was especially beneficial when buying large-ticket items like furniture, clothing and electronics.
The change in the tax law, which took effect July 1, 2019, means out-of-state shoppers are likely to skip the post-purchase application, thus paying the tax and benefiting the state of Washington. According to the Washington Department of Revenue, the refund applies to purchases of tangible personal property, digital products, or digital codes for items to be used only outside Washington State by purchasers who can prove residency in a qualifying jurisdiction. Services have never been covered under the refund program, as well as meals or lodging.
What can you do? Commit, I say, but you’ll need a few tools to remain steadfast in your pursuit of tax-free shopping. Here are a few suggestions:
Save copies of all receipts for purchases over $25. As a freelance travel writer who jets all around the country, I’ve long been a receipt-keeper, and have found a small accordion folder fits easily into my travel bag and allows me to keep track of purchases for refund purposes. Plus, it prevents me from wadding up and stuffing said receipts into my pocket, wallet, or glove box of the rental car.
Make it routine. Many of us reach January 1 and fill out Permenant Fund Dividend applications, so why not add Washington sales tax refunds to your calendar as well? With most of my immediate family residing in the Evergreen state, I do a lot of household shopping in the Seattle area, so I’ve added the refund form process to my calendar.
Apply correctly. To get a refund, you’ll need clean copies of receipts (see step one), have proof of residency, and apply after January 1, 2020 for purchases made between July 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019. Note: Local sales taxes are not factored into the reimbursement.
Questions? Unsure about the process? Visit the Washington State Department of Revenue’s sales tax information page for answers: https://dor.wa.gov/find-taxes-rates/retail-sales-tax/sales-nonresidents.
Erin Kirkland is an Anchorage-based freelance travel writer and author.