|This guide was created to assist businesses that provide lodging the ability
to better understand the Washington State taxes that apply to them. The information
contained in this guide provides tax reporting information for the following
Bed & Breakfast Houses
Rooming Houses/Boarding Houses
Recreational Vehicle (RV) Parks
For additional information or answers to questions about Washington excise taxes, please contact us.
Updated August 2012
Refers to sleeping accommodations.
A guest, resident, or other occupant to whom lodging and other services are furnished under a license to use real property for less than 30 continuous days.
A consumer is any person who uses tangible personal property or receives services defined as retail sales. Tangible personal property or services may be for personal use or for conducting business activities. It is important for sellers to know who the consumer is to correctly collect sales tax.
Deferred Sales Tax
This tax applies under conditions where a person acquired goods without paying sales tax when sales tax was due. Generally, deferred sales tax applies when someone uses a reseller permit to purchase goods that are used and not resold (without use). When reporting deferred sales tax, place the taxable amount on the use tax line of the excise tax return.
The term "gross amount," which appears at the top of Column One on the excise tax return, is a "catch-all" term for whichever of the following terms is applicable to your business: "gross proceeds of sale," or "gross income of the business." The gross amount includes all consideration received without deductions for the costs of doing business or other expenses.
An independent contractor is usually a person who engages in business activities other than as an employee. Determining whether a person is an independent contractor or an employee is important because independent contractors are subject to the B&O tax (and other business taxes) and employees are not. Various factors determine whether one is an employee or an independent contractor. Generally, independent contractors are entitled to the gross income of the business, are liable for business losses and expenses, file a statement of business income and expenses (Schedule C) for income tax purposes, may employ others, etc.
Persons wishing to register a business with one or more state agencies must complete a Business License Application. Upon submitting a Business License Application, the person receives a Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number. The person then receives a Business License to post at the business location.
Resale Certificate/Reseller Permit
A resale certificate is the buyer's written statement that the goods are purchased for resale in the normal course of business without intervening use.The resale certificate was replaced by the reseller permit on January 1, 2010.
Revised Code of Washington (state laws)
UBI/Tax Registration Number
Sometimes called a registration, tax, "C," or resale number, the Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number is a nine-digit number used to identify registered businesses. The number is assigned when a person completes a Business License Application to register with or obtain a license from state agencies. The departments of Revenue, Licensing, Employment Security, Labor and Industries, and the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State are among the state agencies participating in the UBI program. In most cases, your UBI number will also be your tax registration number. Spouses who file separately and businesses that have multiple locations are assigned separate tax registration numbers as needed.
Washington Administrative Code (administrative rules)
Services Provided by the Lodging Industry
Generally, hotels provide many services including lodging, telephone access, food
service, vehicle parking, Internet access, faxing, copying, laundry, dry cleaning,
etc. In many cases, the hotel uses third parties to provide some of these services.
However, when the hotel bills the guests for the retail services, it has an obligation
to collect sales tax on all retail charges.
Charges for transient lodging are taxable as retail sales. Transient means any guest,
resident, or other occupant to whom lodging and other services are furnished for less than
one month or less than 30 continuous days, if the rental period does not begin on the first
day of the month.
An occupant remaining in continuous occupancy for 30 days or more is considered a non-transient
upon the thirtieth day. An occupant who contracts in advance and does remain in continuous
occupancy for the initial thirty days will be considered a non-transient from the start of the
occupancy. Charges for non-transient lodging are exempt of tax as a rental of real estate.
The guest, resident, or other occupant purchasing the lodging is a nontransient upon the thirtieth day without regard to a specific lodging unit occupied throughout the continuous thirty-day period. An occupant who contracts in advance and does remain in continuous occupancy for the initial thirty days will be considered a nontransient from the first day of occupancy provided in the contract. WAC 458-20-166.
Many hotels have restaurants on the premises. For hotels with restaurants, please
consult the Department's Restaurant
Business and Occupation (B&O) Tax
Almost all businesses doing business in Washington State are subject to the state business
and occupation (B&O) tax. This includes corporations, partnerships, sole proprietors and nonprofit
organizations. The B&O tax is a gross receipt tax; it applies to the gross income of the business.
This means there are no deductions from the B&O tax for labor, materials, taxes or other costs of
doing business. Different tax classifications with different rates apply for the various business
The state B&O tax is reported on the Department of Revenue's Excise Tax Return
. A business is assigned by the Department to file
these returns on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, depending on the estimated
yearly tax due and the type of business.
B&O Tax Classifications Common to the Lodging Industry
The most common B&O tax reporting classifications for hotels and other lodging providers are
retailing, and service and other activities. Businesses performing more than one activity may
be subject to tax under one or more B&O tax classifications.
Retailing B&O Tax Classification
Income from conducting activities defined as retail sales or sales at retail is
subject to B&O tax under the retailing classification. Businesses in the lodging
industry making retail sales or providing services that are defined as retail
sales must also collect the retail sales tax. ( See "Collection
of Sales Tax
.") The retailing B&O tax applies to the gross proceeds of the
What are retail sales?
The definition of a "retail sale" or "sale at retail" includes various activities. The following are
Provision of sleeping accommodations for periods of
less than 30 consecutive days.
"No show charge"
is a term commonly used to describe the charge to a customer who purchases lodging
but fails to arrive and actually occupy lodging accommodations. This situation generally occurs when
the agreement between the lodging provider and the customer requires that the customer guarantee full
payment of the lodging rate whether or not the customer actually shows. Assuming the customer has
purchased lodging for a period of less than 30 continuous days, the no show charge is subject to
retailing B&O, retail sales, and any applicable special hotel/motel taxes. If the customer has purchased
lodging for a period of 30 or more continuous days, including the period covered by the no show charge,
the no show charge is exempt of these taxes.
In this context, a deposit
is a payment made by a customer to reserve lodging accommodations, generally
up until a specified check-in time. These payments are generally applied towards
the selling price of lodging, or refunded if the customer does not purchase
lodging. With some businesses, the deposit is nonrefundable if the person
does not timely cancel the reservation and the retained deposit is taxable
under the service and other activities B&O tax classification and sales tax
does not apply.
Early and Late Departure Fees
Hotels and motels sometimes charge customers
fees for leaving earlier than they originally contracted to stay or if they check out later than the
agreed upon time. These charges are taxable as sales of lodging.
When a block of rooms is reserved for a customer at a bargain
price, but the customer does not use the full block of rooms, the hotel may not honor the bargain price
and charge an attrition fee (additional amount) for the rooms that are used. These charges are taxable
as lodging (a retail sale).
Sales of tangible personal property to consumers
A consumer is generally any
person who uses tangible personal property or receives services defined as retail sales.
Charges for prepared meals are taxable as retail sales. This
includes food service at restaurant facilities and food provided via room service.
Charges by hotels to allow guests to have pets in their room are taxable as lodging, subject to retail sales tax and lodging taxes.
Charges by hotels to guests for cleaning services are subject to retail sales tax and lodging taxes.
Charges by hotels to persons that have smoked in "non-smoking" rooms are taxable as lodging, subject to retail sales tax and lodging taxes.
Charges by hotels for roll-away beds are taxable as lodging, subject to retail sales tax and lodging taxes.
Service and Other Activities B&O Tax Classification
Income from personal and professional services and activities not otherwise classified
is subject to B&O tax under the service and other activities classification.
Hotel businesses may receive income taxable under this classification as follows:
- Charges for Internet access.
- Commissions for allowing placement of coin-operated machines at the hotel. This includes cigarette
machines, candy, amusement devices, etc.
- Commissions for acting as a laundry agent for guests when someone other than the hotel provides the
- Commissions from long distance telephone service providers.
- Commissions from coin-operated telephones. Refer to the Collection of Sales Tax section for a further
discussion of telephone charges.
- Fees for permitting a satellite antenna to be installed on the premises.
- Commissions for permitting a broadcaster or cable operator to make sales to hotel guests.
In addition to the state B&O tax, some Washington cities impose a B&O/public utility
tax. The Department of Revenue does not administer these city taxes. Consequently,
you should contact
each city or town in which you conduct business regarding their specific taxes.
Collection of Sales Tax
In general, retail sales tax applies to transient lodging charges. The hotel has an obligation
to collect retail sales tax on retail charges even if the hotel is acting as an agent for third
parties with regard to such charges.
The following retail sales to consumers require collection of retail sales tax:
- Transient lodging charges
- Charges for meeting rooms and banquet rooms
- Charges for telephone calls (long distance and local)
- Charges for vehicle parking
- Charges for food service
- Charges for video or game rental
Although buyers are subject to and must pay the sales tax when making retail purchases, sellers
must collect and pay the tax to the Department of Revenue. Sellers are liable for the tax even if
they do not collect it from the buyer.
Sales Tax Rates - Combined State and Local Sales Tax
Washington's retail sales tax is a combination of the state retail sales tax and
the local retail sales tax. The Department distributes the local sales tax to
local governments each month. The location of the sale will determine sales tax
rate to be collected. The state portion is 6.5 percent, while local sales tax
Local Retail Sales Tax
Persons making sales at retail must collect the local portion of sales tax along
with the state sales tax. Local tax is reported on the Excise Tax Return.
Sellers must code their sales according to the location in which the customer receives the goods or retail services. The coding on the tax return determines how the Department distributes the local sales and other taxes to local governments around the state. Because local governments depend upon these taxes to fund various local services, it's important to collect and report sales tax for the proper location. Charges for lodging are subject to the combined state and local tax rate for the location where the lodging is provided.
Other local taxes to consider:
The following are in addition to the state and local sales tax.
Special Hotel/Motel Tax:
From 1.0 to 5.0 percent. Imposed in certain areas.
Convention and Trade Center Tax:
Imposed in King County at a rate of 2.8 percent (7.0 percent in Seattle). Imposed on customers in King County if the lodging business has 60 or more units. Effective August 1, 2015, Hostels with 60 or more units are no longer subject to the convention and trade center tax. For more information, see our Special Notice, King County Tax Change for Hostel Classified Facilities Effective August 1, 2015.
Regional Transit Authority (RTA):
0.9 percent tax that is collected in addition to state and local retail
sales tax on sales made in portions of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
A complete list of locations imposing these additional taxes, location codes and
tax rates can be found in the Department's List of Sales and Use Tax Rate
or you can use the Tax Rate Lookup Tool
Transient Rental Income:
A business providing transient lodging must complete the "transient rental income" information section of the Excise Tax Return. The four-digit location code must be listed along with the taxable income received from transient lodging for each facility located within a participating city or county.
Tourism Promotion Area Charges:
Chapter 35.101 RCW authorizes cities, towns and counties to impose special lodging charges within designated tourism promotion areas for use in promoting tourism.
Currently, Spokane County, Tri-Cities, Yakima County, Liberty Lake, Clark County, and Pierce County impose a Tourism Promotion Area charge. For more information, please refer to our Special Notices for each of these areas:
Retail Sales Tax Exemptions and Deductions
Sales to the US Government:
As explained in Washington
Administrative Code (WAC) 458-20-190
, only those sales made directly to the
US Government qualify for a retail sales tax exemption. Sales to federal employees
or representatives of the federal government are subject to sales tax, even though
the federal government may reimburse them for all or part of the expenses.
- Charges must be paid for with a qualifying exempt US Government credit card
(refer to our Special
Notice on Tax Exempt Sales to the US Government (pdf)); or
- Charges must be paid for with a US Government check; or
- Charges must be paid for with US Government vouchers; or,
- A Standard Federal Form SF 1165 must accompany the cash payment.
Sales to certain foreign officials
are exempt from retail sales tax and the King County Food and Beverage tax. To
receive the exemption, such persons must present an exemption card at the time
of purchase. All
retail employees should be aware of the sales tax exemption,
as well as restrictions that apply to foreign officials or missions. For more
information, refer to the Special Notice, Sales
Tax Exemption for Foreign Diplomats
Furnishing Emergency Lodging to Homeless:
for furnishing emergency lodging to homeless persons purchased via a shelter voucher
program administered by cities, towns, counties or private organizations that
provide emergency food and shelter services is exempt from the retail sales tax,
convention and trade center tax, and special hotel/motel tax. This form of payment
does not affect the number of rooms required for the special hotel/motel tax or
convention and trade center tax.
Other Nonretail Revenues
Some activities for which the hotel or motel acts as an agent are not subject to retail sales tax. For these charges,
only the commission received by the hotel from the vendor is to be reported under the service and other activities B&O
Satellite and Cable Charges:
- Sales of television programming on a pay-per-program basis that allows the buyer to access a library of programs at any time for a specific charge, are suject to retail sales tax.
- Charges to access pre-scheduled satellite and cable television programming are not subject to retail sales tax.
Beauty Salon and Barber Shop Charges:
These are charges for hair care provided by third parties
and charged to the lodger's invoice.
Baby Sitting Charges:
The revenues are charged by a third party provider and charged to the
In some instances, the hotel and motel may be acting as an agent for the seller
of tangible personal property, renter or lessor of tangible personal property,
or the provider of services. If the hotel or motel claims to be acting only in
an agent's role, the provisions and requirements set forth in WAC
must be met. If the hotel or motel is acting as an agent and receives
a commission or fee for this, the revenue is subject to the service and other
activities B&O tax. Examples of the types of sales for which the hotel or motel
may be acting as an agent are listed below. In all cases, the charges for the
sales or services are posted to the lodger's invoice.
Reporting Retail Sales When the Hotel is an Agent
The gross proceeds from the types of sales in this section should all be reported under the retailing B&O tax
and retail sales tax classifications. The hotel or motel is then allowed to take a deduction under the retailing
B&O tax classification on the Excise Tax Return, which should be designated as "agency sale" on the
deduction detail sheet of the return. There is no similar deduction under the retail sales tax classification and
the agent should remit the retail sales tax moneys with the return. Commission income received by the agent is reported
under the service and other activities B&O tax classification. Activities that routinely occur at hotels and motels
are listed below. Other types of revenues not listed that are subject to retail sales tax should be treated in the
The hotel or motel is acting as an agent for a long distance carrier
for long distance telephone calls placed by lodgers. The method of reporting mentioned before only applies to guest
charges. Long distance calls made by the hotel or motel management or staff are expenses and the entire amount of
the bill should be paid to the long distance carrier.
Hotels and motels sometimes contract with third party owners of parking
facilities to allow lodgers to park in their lots. The lot owner will then notify the motel or hotel daily of which
lodgers parked in the facilities and the amount owed by each. The hotel or motel will then post the amount due,
including retail sales tax to the guest's invoice.
Laundry and Dry Cleaning:
As a convenience to lodgers, hotels and motels contract with
dry cleaning and laundry businesses to pick up and deliver dry cleaning and laundry to lodgers. The charges for
these services are posted to the lodger's bill.
Hotels and motels sometimes have agreements with local restaurants
(not owned by the hotel) which allow lodgers to purchase meals and have the bill posted to their lodging invoice.
Additionally, lodgers are able to have room service provided by the restaurant and charged to their bill. It is the
responsibility of the hotel or motel to ensure that the proper tax base is used in collecting the tax, i.e. mandatory
gratuities are subject to retail sales tax.
Payment of Sales/Use Tax on Consumables
In addition to understanding when to collect Washington's retail sales tax, hotel operators must also understand when they owe sales tax or use tax on their consumer purchases of hotel furnishings and complimentary items provided to guests, etc. On purchases of goods from sellers registered in Washington, sales tax is based on the combined state and local rate for the location where the goods are received. On purchases of goods from sellers that are not registered in Washington, use tax is based on the combined state and local rate for the location where the goods are first used.
You should pay sales tax when you purchase consumable goods and services. However, if you purchase goods
from a private party that is not in business or you purchase goods from out-of-state vendors, by subscription,
mail order, Internet, etc., you may not be charged sales tax. However, you owe use tax on such goods if you
use them in Washington.
Purchases of goods (and some limited services) for resale (without intervening use) are not subject to
sales tax if a reseller permit
is provided to the vendor.
Washington's use tax is due when goods are acquired for use (i.e., not for resale)
in Washington without payment of the state's sales tax.
Use tax rates are the same as sales tax rates. Thus, the rates vary depending on your location. For local use tax purposes, the location of first use of the property in Washington determines
which rate applies. A business reporting use tax will generally use its location to determine which rate
Hotel businesses must
pay retail sales tax or use tax on purchases of retail services and items used and/or
consumed by the business. The following list represents some common items purchased for use by hotels.
- Chairs, tables, supplies, furnishings and dishes
- Pest control
- Repair parts and labor
- Security systems
- Complimentary items: soaps, shampoos, sewing kits, and other items provided
free of charge to lodging customers
- Telephone and cable infrastructure and equipment.
Washington Administrative Code 458-20-166 and 458-20-178
How to compute taxable and exempt lodging
Example #1: Prior to arrival, an individual commits in writing to staying for
a period of 30 consecutive days. The lodger is assigned a room but 10 days into
the stay is moved to another room. Provided the person pays for 30 consecutive
days, this will be considered rental of real estate and not subject to any Washington
Example #2: An airline contracts with a motel to pay for a minimum of 10 rooms
per night even if fewer rooms are occupied for the month of April. On the tenth
of April the airline only occupies eight rooms. Throughout the 30 day billing
period, the airline is charged for 10 rooms per night. The charges for the rooms
are considered non-transient rental and are not subject to any state tax. Any
charges for rooms over and above the 10 rooms will be considered transient rental
and subject to retailing B&O tax, retail sales tax, and the special hotel/motel
tax, and convention and trade center tax, if applicable.
Example #3: An airline contracts with a motel to keep 15 rooms available for the
month of April. The airline is allowed to cancel the rooms without paying for
them if the motel is contacted before 6:00 p.m.. During the 30 day billing period
the fewest number of rooms paid for is six. The six rooms will be considered non-transient
rental and are not subject to any state tax. The rooms over and above the minimum
six rooms will be considered transient rental and subject to retailing B&O tax,
retail sales tax, and the special hotel/motel tax, and convention and trade center
tax, if applicable.
Hotels and motels sometimes offer package deals to the public. The packages include the room and other amenities. The following is an example of a package that might be offered and the resulting tax consequences for the income realized by the lodging provider:
A hotel offers a $250 "romantic getaway" package. The package includes a room
for one night, a certificate to be redeemed when dining at a local restaurant,
and two tickets to a local playhouse. The room also comes with a complimentary
fruit and champagne basket that the hotel purchases for $15.
The hotel purchases the two show tickets from the local playhouse on behalf
of the guest upon registration, at a total face value of $60. The $40 face value
of the certificate issued by the restaurant is to be applied as payment towards
the guest's purchase of a meal and beverages at the restaurant. The guest is
responsible for any restaurant billing in excess of $40. The hotel receives
a $5 commission from the restaurant for each redeemable certificate it sells
for the restaurant. The hotel purchases the complimentary fruit and champagne
basket for $15. The hotel properly segregates and accounts for the guest charges
for the show tickets and restaurant certificate in its books and records.
The amount attributable to the sale of lodging is subject to the retailing B&O,
retail sales, special hotel/motel, and convention and trade center taxes, if
applicable, is computed as follows:
|Charge to guest
The $5 commission received from the restaurant is subject to the service and
other activities B&O tax.
For information on restaurants and their tax reporting responsibilities please
consult the Department of Revenue's Restaurant
Tips or gratuities given voluntarily by customers are not subject to tax. However, if the tip or gratuity
is added to the bill and is a mandatory charge for services, the charge becomes part of the selling price
and subject to tax.
One example of a situation in which charges for gratuities are not considered
voluntary is when the amount is agreed upon and the contract document states that
a gratuity "will be added."
458-20-119 and WAC
Pet fees are an additional charge for the room and are taxed in the same manner as the other transient lodging charges. Pet fee charges are therefore subject to retail sales tax and any applicable local taxes on lodging. Also, retailing B&O tax applies.
Unclaimed Property and Unredeemed Gift Certificates
Unclaimed property is money or intangible property held for a period of time with no owner contact. The
Washington Unclaimed Property Act protects unclaimed property until it is returned to its rightful owner
or their heir. The Department of Revenue acts as the custodian for safe keeping of the property until the
rightful owner can be located. Once the property is reported to the Department, it is available for refund
to the owner or legal claimant indefinitely.
Washington State law requires businesses and other organizations to review their records each year to determine
whether they hold any property that has been unclaimed for a set period of time. Businesses must file an annual
report and deliver the property to the state. The length of time property is abandoned before being turned over
to the state varies depending upon the type of property.
How to report unclaimed property
For information on how to report unclaimed property including unredeemed gift certificates, see our Unclaimed Property section, or write to:
PO Box 47489
Olympia WA 98504-7489
Personal Property Tax
Unless specifically exempt, all tangible personal property is subject to the personal property tax. Personal
property tax rates are the same as for real property. Personal property includes machinery, equipment, furniture
and supplies of businesses. In general, the characteristic that distinguishes personal property from real
property is mobility. Household goods and certain intangibles are exempt from personal property tax, unless
used in a business activity. Business inventories are specifically exempt from personal property tax.
Everyone who uses personal property in a business or has taxable personal property
must complete a personal property affidavit by April 30 each year. The affidavit
must list the taxable personal property located in the county as of 12:00 p.m.
on January 1. The affidavit must include the acquisition cost and year acquired
for all taxable property. The assessor uses the affidavit to value personal property
for taxes due the following year.
County assessors and treasurers levy and collect the property tax. Every January,
county assessors mail personal property affidavits to persons who have previously
listed personal property. Businesses that do not receive an affidavit or that
have questions regarding paying real and/or personal property taxes should contact
their local county treasurer's office
Leasehold Excise Tax
Persons or businesses that lease or otherwise possess and use publicly-owned real or personal property are subject to the
leasehold excise tax. The tax is imposed in lieu of state and local property tax. Public property is property owned by
the federal government, Washington State, counties, school districts and other municipal corporations.
The amount subject to tax is generally the amount of rent paid to the lessor. Certain expenses and improvements may also be
included in the taxable amount.
Generally, the tax is collected by the public entity leasing property to private lessees. However, lessees of federal property
must report directly to the Department of Revenue.
Reference: For more information regarding leasehold excise tax, contact
the Department's Leasehold Excise Tax section.
Mayflower Decision (Mayflower Park Hotel, Inc., No. 30213-6-II)
The Court of Appeals affirmed the Superior Court and filed a published opinion regarding the application of sales tax when a hotel purchases furnishings and amenities. The Court held that rather than selling such items separately, Mayflower incorporates the costs of these items into the rate it charges for each room. It therefore put these items to an 'intervening use' when it provides those items in its rooms for their guests use.
The court held that Mayflower must pay sales tax each time it purchases furnishings or amenities provided that the hotel uses or consumes the furnishings or amenities in the course of renting rooms to its guests. So long as this proviso is met, it does not matter whether the hotel 'consumes' the item (e.g., soap or shampoo), or 'uses' and then resells the item (e.g., a sofa or bed).
The case affirmed the Department of Revenue's tax treatment with regard to these items. The Department will continue to follow Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 458-20-166 in this regard.
For purposes of this tax application:
- "Furnishings" contemplated in the decision include: alarm clock radios, armoires, ashtrays, baby cribs, bed bolts, bed frames, bedspreads, blankets, carpet, carpet pads, casters, chairs, desks, draperies, drapes, dressers, hangers, headboards, ice buckets, ironing boards, irons, lamp shades, luggage racks, mattresses, mirrors, pictures, pillows, signs, roll-a-ways, shower curtains, signage, sofas, standing lamps, table lamps, tables, televisions, upholstery, and wastebaskets.
- "Amenities" contemplated in the decision include: bath mats, body lotion, conditioner, cotton balls, electric light bulbs, glassware, guest directories, guest keys, guest questionnaires, hairnets, hangers, ironing board pads, key folders, tissue dispensers, laundry bags, laundry slips, magazines, matches, mattress pads, notepads, paper coasters, pens, pillow cases, postcards, cotton-tip swabs, razors, robes, sewing kits, shampoo, sheets, shoe mitts, shower curtains, slippers, soap, stationery, tissue paper, toilet paper, toothbrushes, towels, tub mats, wash cloths, and wastebasket liners.