Gaming, public utility tax, and Indian housing authorities


Gaming by Indian tribes is regulated by the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Nonmembers who operate or manage gaming operations for Indian tribes are not subject to tax for business conducted in Indian country. This exclusion from tax applies to taxes imposed on income attributable to the business activity (for example, the B&O tax), and to sales and use tax on the property used in Indian country to conduct the activity. Sales tax will apply if delivery of property is taken outside of Indian country.

Nonmembers who purchase tangible personal property at a gaming facility are subject to retail sales or use tax, unless:

(a) The item is preempted because of the outcome of the balancing test. For example, depending on the relative state, tribal, and federal interests, tax on food at restaurants or lounges owned and operated by the tribe or a tribal member or sales of member arts and crafts at gift shops is preempted; or
(b) The item is purchased for use in the gaming activity at the facility, such as bingo cards or daubers.

Public utility tax

Generally, income from sales in Indian country of tangible personal property to, and from the performance of services in Indian country for, tribes and tribal members is not subject to B&O (chapter 82.04 RCW) or public utility tax (chapters 82.16 and 54.28 RCW).

The taxpayer is responsible for maintaining suitable records so that the taxpayer and the department can distinguish between taxable and nontaxable activities.

To document a public utility tax exemption, use the Tax Exemption for Sales to Tribes form (pdf).

Indian housing authorities

Tribal Housing authorities and the property of tribal housing authorities are exempt from taxes, such as:

  • State and local sales and use taxes.

  • State and local excise taxes.

  • State and local property taxes.

  • Special assessments.

Please note that tribal housing authorities, like all other housing authorities, are exempt from tax anywhere in the state, and the delivery requirement and other geographic thresholds are not applicable.

Tribal Housing Authority means the tribal government or an agency or branch of the tribal government that operated and administers housing programs for persons of low income or senior citizens.