In addition to the B&O tax, commercial fishers may be liable for the excise tax on enhanced food fish. The tax applies to the first possession of enhanced food fish by an owner in Washington.
The term "enhanced food fish" includes the following:
- Species of food fish, shellfish, and anadromous game fish (those which go upriver to spawn), including byproducts and parts thereof, caught in Washington territorial and adjacent waters.
- Salmon caught in the territorial and adjacent waters of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
- Troll-caught Chinook salmon caught in territorial and adjacent waters of southeast Alaska.
The law bases the fish tax on enhanced food fish value at the point of landing. The law considers the fish as "landed" when they are placed on a tender in the territorial waters of Washington, or when they are brought to land, which includes wharves, piers, or other such extensions.
The rate of the tax depends upon the species of fish or shellfish, and where the fish are caught.
The fish tax is usually paid by the licensed dealer who bought the fish; the commercial fisher usually doesn’t pay the fish tax. However, if the buyer is someone other than a Department of Fish and Wildlife licensed dealer, then the commercial fisher is directly responsible for the tax.
Even when the commercial fisher sells the fish to a licensed dealer, the fisher may bear some of the economic burden of the fish tax. A dealer is entitled to deduct an amount equal to half of the fish tax from the price they paid to the fisher. The law states tuna, mackerel, and jack fish are exempt from the fish tax. Shellfish raised from eggs or larvae, and under the physical control of the grower until harvested or sold, are also exempt from the fish tax.
Indian Treaty Food Fish. Transactions involving treaty food fish are not subject to the enhanced food fish tax, regardless of where the transaction takes place.
Credit. A credit is allowed against the amount of enhanced food fish tax owed for any tax previously paid on the same food fish to any legally established taxing authority, including Indian tribes. To qualify for a credit, the owner of the enhanced food fish must have documentation showing they paid the tax in another jurisdiction.
If you have questions about the fish tax, please call (360) 705-6219.