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Initiative 1183 requires Washington State to:

  • Close the state liquor stores on May 31, 2012.
  • Allow private spirits retailer licensees to sell spirits to the general public beginning June 1, 2012.

Go to our at-a-glance chart to see:

  • The implementation timeline.
  • How taxes apply to spirits sales.

What are spirits?
Spirits are:

  • Any beverage containing alcohol that is obtained by distillation, except flavored malt beverages as defined under RCW 66.04.010(20). These products have labels that indicate "proof."
  • Wines exceeding 24 percent alcohol by volume as indicated on the label.

How do I get a license to sell spirits?
You can apply for a license through the Business Licensing Service at http://bls.dor.wa.gov/liquor.aspx. The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) approves or denies license applications.

What taxes apply to spirits?
There are two types of spirits taxes: a spirits sales tax and a spirits liter tax.

Spirits Sales Tax (SST): This tax is based on the selling price of spirits in their original package.

  • Spirits sales tax rate paid by the general public: 20.5%
  • Spirits sales tax rate paid by on-premises retailers such as restaurants, bars, etc., on their purchases from distributors, distillers, etc.: 13.7%

Spirits Liter Tax (SLT): This tax is based on the volume of the spirits being sold in the original package.

  • Spirits liter tax rate paid by the general public:  $3.7708 per liter
  • Spirits liter tax rate paid by on-premises retailers such as restaurants, bars, etc., on their purchases from distributors, distillers, etc.: $2.4408 per liter
Other taxes also apply.

Business & Occupation (B&O) taxes:  B&O taxes apply to the manufacture and/or sale of spirits.

Retail sales tax: This tax is collected on drinks containing spirits sold by restaurants, bars or other establishments that have an on-premises license.

To see when these taxes apply, see the implementation chart below.

How do I report and pay spirits taxes?
Businesses that owe spirits taxes to the Department are required to report those taxes on their monthly tax returns using E-file, the Department's online filing system. The spirits sales tax and spirits liter tax are reported on the Other & Quantity section of E-file. Your payment options include electronic funds transfer, E-check, and credit card. To file your return, go to our E-file login page.

How to calculate spirits taxes
Use this Spirits Tax Calculator (.xls) to determine:

  • Your final price including the SST and SLT.
  • Your price before SST and SLT are calculated.

Documenting that the right spirits tax rate was collected
On-premises licensees pay the lower SST and SLT rates when purchasing spirits. Purchases of spirits by licensees such as: off premises, distributors, spirits manufacturers, or importers are exempt from spirits taxes.

In both cases, the purchaser must provide the seller documentation to purchase at the lower rate or exempt of spirits taxes. Acceptable documentation means one of the following:

  • A copy of the Business License which shows the type of liquor license(s) the purchaser holds
  • A copy of the "tear off" portion of the Business License
  • All of the following data elements:
    • Taxpayer name
    • Address
    • Type of liquor license(s) with license number
    • UBI
    • Expiration date
  • A printed copy of the purchaser's business license as listed in the "business license search" found online at licenselookup.wa.gov.

The seller must keep a copy of the documentation for audit purposes.

The Department has created a one page Spirits License Purchase List (pdf). This list provides spirits sellers with the tax rate at which each type of spirits license can purchase.

Itemizing the Spirits Taxes
For spirits sold in the original packaging to the general public and on-premises licenses, the seller must separately state the spirits taxes. This can be on a price list made available to customers or on a sales invoice provided to customers.  Advertised prices or shelf prices will be considered not to include the spirits taxes unless they clearly identify the amount of spirits taxes included in the listed price. The spirits sales tax and the spirits liter tax can be combined into one “Spirits Taxes” amount. The use of the term “tax included” will not suffice for the requirement to itemize the spirits taxes.

Sales to Non-Residents
The nonresident exemption for the general sales tax does not apply to spirits taxes. Nonresidents must pay the spirits taxes.

Spirits Sales Privatization Implementation Chart

All sales presumed to be by licensed parties

On this date

These entities

Can begin selling to

Subject to these taxes

Dec. 8, 2011

In-state craft distillers

The general public (up to two liters per person per day for off-premise consumption)

SST 20.5%, SLT $3.7708, Manufacturing/retailing B&O
(MATC may apply)

March 1, 2012

In-state craft and non-craft distillers

On-premises licensees*

SST 13.7%, SLT $2.4408, Manufacturing/wholesaling B&O (MATC may apply)

Off-premises licensees

Manufacturing/wholesaling B&O (MATC may apply)



On-premises licensees*

SST 13.7%, SLT $2.4408,
Wholesaling B&O

Off-premises licensees

Wholesaling B&O

Other distributors

June 1, 2012

Off-premises licensees

The general public

SST 20.5%, SLT $3.7708, Retailing B&O

On-premises licensees

SST 13.7%, SLT $2.4408,
Wholesaling B&O

In-state non-craft distillers

The general public

SST 20.5%, SLT $3.7708, Manufacturing/retailing B&O (MATC may apply)

SST = Spirits sales tax (on selling price)
SLT = Spirits liter tax (per liter)
B&O = Business and occupation tax
MATC = Multiple Activities Tax Credit

On-premises licensees (restaurants, bars, etc.)
Off-premises licensees (grocery stores, warehouse clubs, etc.)

* On premises licensees may begin selling the spirits they purchase from distributors and distillers, by the glass to the general public, on March 1, 2012.

Rev: 01262012/10A


Contact dor.wa.gov/Communications or call 1-800-647-7706.