Self-service storage businesses

Updated October 2011

The rental of self-service storage units, where customers have direct access to individual storage units by separate access, is considered rental of real estate when space is rented for 30 days or longer. Income from this rental of real estate is not taxable under the business and occupation (B&O) tax. (See WAC 458-20-118)

Self-service storage businesses often make retail sales of tangible personal property (TPP) such as moving boxes. They may also make retail or wholesale sales when they auction off the contents of storage units where occupants have defaulted on their rental agreement.

Retail sales of TPP

Retail sales by self-service storage businesses may include, but are not limited to sales of:

  • moving boxes
  • rope
  • locks
  • packing tape

These sales require the collection and remittance of retail sales tax, and retailing B&O tax applies.

Sales of storage unit contents

Chapter 19.150 RCW provides for the lien of and sale of storage unit contents by self-service storage businesses when the occupant defaults on terms of their rental agreement.

Retail sales: When a self-service storage business sells the saleable contents to consumers, they must collect and remit retail sales tax.

Sales to resellers: A self-service storage business is not required to collect sales tax when the buyer provides a copy of his, her, or its reseller permit (or other approved document) that documents the wholesale nature of the transaction.

No B&O tax due: However, because the self-service storage business is authorized to sell the occupant’s contents only for the purpose of satisfying the lien against the occupant, the sales proceeds are not subject to the B&O tax.

Sales conducted by auctioneers

A self-service storage business may choose to hire a third-party auctioneer to conduct sales of storage unit contents on their behalf. The auctioneer will generally collect and remit sales tax on sales to consumers.

However, if the auctioneer does not both collect and remit the sales tax due to the Department of Revenue (Department) on these auction sales, the storage business is responsible for remitting the sales tax due.

Registration requirements

A business that is required to remit retail sales tax must register.

When a self-service storage business is responsible for remitting retail sales tax to the Department, it must register with the Department. This includes businesses that conduct their own auctions (as opposed to hiring a third party auctioneer).

To register with the Department of Revenue, please complete a Business License Application.

For more information

Please call our Telephone Information Center at 360-705-6705 or contact us.