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Q:  How does Washington's sales tax apply to nonresidents who purchase items in the state? I saw an Oregon resident purchase clothing in a Washington store, present some identification, and not have to pay sales tax. How can this be?

A: 

Washington 's sales tax generally applies to all sales of tangible personal property and retail services made within the state, regardless of where the purchaser resides. However, per RCW 82.08.0273, provides an exemption from retail sales tax to certain nonresidents of Washington for purchases of tangible personal property, digital goods, and digital codes, for use outside this state. The statutory exemption is available only to residents of states other than Washington, US possessions, or Canadian territories or provinces that do not impose or have imposed on their behalf, a generally applicable retail sales tax, use tax, value added tax, gross receipts tax on retailing activities, or similar generally applicable tax of three percent (3%) or more.

The statute specifically provides that sellers are not required to make tax-exempt sales to nonresidents. However, sellers who choose to make tax-exempt sales must meet special requirements. Qualifying nonresident buyers must present picture identification at the time of purchase noting their out-of-state address to the seller.

 

As of July 1, 2011, only residents of the following jurisdictions qualify for this exemption:

  • Alaska 
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  • American Samoa
  • Alberta
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nunavut
  • Yukon Territory

The exemption is limited to purchases of items that are taken and used out of the state. Purchases of meals, hotel rooms, laundry services or other services or products the nonresident uses while in Washington do not qualify for the exemption.

More information
More information about sales to nonresidents
Excise Tax Advisory 3054.2011(pdf)
RCW 82.08.0273
Buyers' Retail Sales Tax Exemption Certificate (pdf)
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