The Department of Revenue’s Voluntary Disclosure Program encourages unregistered businesses to comply with Washington tax laws and to voluntarily register and pay prior tax obligations. If your business has established substantial nexus in Washington, and is required to register and report taxes according to WAC 458-20-101, we can assist you in becoming compliant.
Businesses can come forward through the Voluntary Disclosure Program by submitting an online application. The "look back" period is generally limited to four years plus the current year. Penalties may either be partially or fully waived and interest will be imposed at the statutory rate. Upon approval into the program, you may be required to complete a Business License Application, and pay the application fee.
Benefits of voluntary disclosure
The Voluntary Disclosure Program can offer you the following benefits:
- The “look back” period for your tax liability is limited to the prior four years plus the current year;
- Up to 39 percent in potential penalties can be waived, which include:
- 5 percent assessment penalty for substantially underpaid tax;
- 5 percent unregistered penalty; and
- 29 percent late payment of a return penalty.
- The department can summarize your unreported tax liability in a single tax assessment.
- Note: If you have collected retail sales or use tax but did not remit it there is an unlimited look back period, and the 29 percent late payment of a return penalty will apply only to the collected and unremitted retail sales or use tax amounts (WAC 458-20-228 and 458-20-230).
Full statutory interest will still be imposed on all amounts due.
Who is eligible for the program
To qualify for full voluntary disclosure benefits a business must have:
- Never registered with or reported taxes to the department;
- Never been contacted by the department for enforcement purposes (e.g., audit or compliance contacts regarding registration or reporting requirements); and
- Not engaged in evasion or misrepresentation in reporting tax liabilities.
All requests for voluntary disclosure must be submitted through the department's online application. Applications are accepted and reviewed in the order they are received. Applications that include all the following elements are considered "complete" at the time of submission and may be prioritized over incomplete applications:
We strongly encourage you to attach and submit all the required elements at the time you complete your application to prevent delays in the process. After submitting your application, you will receive a confirmation that your application has been received.
Additional information may be requested during the voluntary disclosure process.
Applicants are required to register with the department by submitting a business license application. Applicants should register with the department after submitting the voluntary disclosure application. Business license applications may be completed online. For assistance completing the application, you can access the online Business Licensing Wizard.
If you choose to apply anonymously you must disclose the business identity within 15 calendar days of the application date. You are afforded protection from discovery by the department for this period of time only.
The department will send a reminder email to you after submitting the application. If you do not disclose your name and contact information by the 15th day, your application will not be approved and you will need to re-submit an application. If discovered by the department before you reapply, any tax and interest owed will be subject to an extended look back period of seven years plus the current year as well as penalties of up to 39 percent of the tax due. Delinquent return penalties apply at a rate of 9%, 19%, or 29%.
To allow the department to work with a third party representative, you must provide a completed Confidential Tax Information Authorization (CTIA) at the time of disclosure in order for the department to correspond with them regarding your confidential taxpayer information.
If the department has determined that you meet the voluntary disclosure qualifications, you will be approved for the program. The department will prepare a Voluntary Disclosure Agreement which must be signed and returned to the department within 30 calendar days of the original application date. If you do not return the signed agreement within 30 days, your application will not be approved and any tax and interest owed could be subject to an extended look back period of seven years plus the current year as well as penalties of up to 39 percent of the tax due.
Once the signed agreement is returned, the department will sign the agreement and return a copy to you.
Find a copy of a sample agreement here.
Completing the voluntary disclosure process
After submitting your application, you will receive communication from an examiner with instructions on what information is needed. If you did not include all the recommended documents with your initial application, you will be required to provide them no later than 60 days from the date you submitted your application.
Once your tax liability has been determined the department will prepare a tax assessment that includes the tax and interest due, as well as any applicable penalties. You will be sent a draft copy of the assessment for review. The assessment will then be submitted for processing and the Department will send an invoice to your online MyDOR account. Full payment must be received according to the payment instructions on your invoice. Additional interest and late payment penalties will accrue if the assessment is not paid in full by the due date.
Application not approved
In the event your application was not approved, you will receive an explanation from the department along with further instructions.
Previously or currently registered businesses
If a business that has been or is currently registered discovers it has underreported its tax obligations, it does not qualify for a Voluntary Disclosure Agreement. The Voluntary Disclosure Program covers taxes reportable on the Combined Excise Tax Return. However, we encourage you to come forward or file amended returns so you can become current with your reporting.
If you are unsure if your business has been previously registered with the Department of Revenue for tax collection purposes, you can go to our Business Lookup and do a search for your business.
If you need to make corrections or adjustments to previously filed returns, you may file an amended return(s). Returns can be amended electronically or by paper. If you have more than one year of periods to amend, submit a summary schedule or spreadsheet of adjustments through My DOR. You can send an "Amended Tax Returns" web message with the schedule or spreadsheet attached.
The department may verify the amended returns you file. In addition, the following penalties may apply to the underreported amounts.
- Late payment return penalties up to 29 percent if you originally filed no business or zero returns, were on active non-reporting status, or your original returns were filed late.
- 5 percent assessment penalty for substantially underpaid tax if the underreported tax is underpaid by at least 20 percent. (WAC 458-20-228).
For questions about filing amended returns, contact the Taxpayer Account Administration Division at 360-705-6215.
If our records indicate your business was previously contacted by the department in an effort to determine your registration and reporting requirements, or regarding other enforcement issues, you will not qualify for the Voluntary Disclosure Program. (WAC 458-20-228 (5)(a)(iii)).
Contact could include, but is not limited to: a phone call or written correspondence inquiring about your registration status, a request to complete the Washington Business Activities Questionnaire, or a notification of audit or examination.
Affiliated entities and subsidiaries
If you have unregistered affiliates, subsidiaries, or related entities that are required to register and report, they are encouraged to come forward through the Voluntary Disclosure Program. A separate application must be filed for each business entity.
If the department has contacted you for enforcement purposes (e.g., a phone call, written correspondence, etc.) and has asked for information regarding any affiliates and related entities, then they, too, are considered to have been contacted and would not qualify for the program. It does not matter whether the affiliates or related entities were identified by name.
A contact with a business is considered a contact with a business’s affiliates and related entities if 1) the contact is for enforcement purposes, 2) the contact makes it clear that it is intended to reach both the business and its affiliates and related entities; and 3) the contact requires the business and its affiliates and related entities to take action(s) in response to the contact.
The term “affiliate” means a person that is “affiliated” with another person; and “affiliated” means under common control; and “control” means the possession, directly or indirectly, of more than 50 percent of the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of a person, whether through the ownership of voting shares, by contract, or otherwise. Under these definitions, “affiliates” would include “subsidiaries.” (RCW 82.04.29005; RCW 82.04.645).
Risk of discovery
If your business is discovered through the department’s normal investigation, examination, or audit procedures you may be liable for tax, interest, penalties of 39 percent of the tax due, and a “look back” period of seven years plus the current year (WAC 458-20-228 and 458-20-230.)
Full statutory interest will still be imposed on all amounts due.
Need more information?
If you would like more information about our Voluntary Disclosure Program, please contact us by:
Washington State Department of Revenue
Voluntary Disclosure Program
P.O. Box 47474
Olympia, WA 98504-7474
The information obtained from your application will be used by the department to determine your eligibility for the Voluntary Disclosure Program as well as to respond directly to you regarding your desire to comply with Washington's tax law. The department will maintain confidentiality of the information, as well as any Voluntary Disclosure Agreement, as provided in RCW 82.32.330. For more information please review our Privacy Statement.