Sales and use tax

Use tax and vessel registration requirements

Use tax applies to the use of articles within Washington acquired without paying sales tax. Articles purchased for use in this state are subject to sales tax or use tax, but not both. Sales tax is based on the selling price, while use tax is based on the value of the article at the time it is first used in Washington. The value includes any delivery charges paid to the seller.

If you purchase your boat from an individual or from out-of-state, use tax is due based on the place where the boat will be moored or stored. However, if the county auditor or licensing agent collects the use tax based on the owner’s location, a refund of any overpayment can be requested directly from the Department of Revenue. See our online page on Requesting a Refund.

If your boat is not required to be registered, you may pay the use tax by completing a Consumer Use Tax Return. For information on exemptions from sales/use tax please see the Exemptions to Sales/Use Tax section in this guide.

Columbia River moorage

Washington residents who moor their vessels on the Oregon side of the Columbia River are subject to sales or use tax. Use of the vessels is presumed to be on the Columbia River. Because the state line is down the middle of the river, the vessel will cross into Washington.

Purchase and use of vessels by nonresidents

Generally, vessels purchased or used in Washington are subject to sales tax or use tax and must be registered. However, there are some exemptions available to nonresidents of Washington that are discussed in detail below.

Topics covered include:

Vessels exempt from the registration requirements are also exempt from the watercraft excise tax.