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Paying the Governor’s Share: Excise Tax & Short Sales

Posted on Dec 23, 2009


Here in Washington state, we are accustomed to paying an excise/state sales tax when we purchase goods. Interestingly enough, when it comes to the most significant acquisition most of us will make, the seller, rather than the purchaser, covers the taxes.

Currently, the base Washington state excise tax rate is 1.28%, with each county adding on their own percentage for a total that fluctuates somewhat by area. Snohomish and King County excise taxes (in most areas) are at a .50 rate,  bringing the grand total to 1.78% of the purchase price.

An obvious question if you’re a distressed home seller would be, “who exactly pays this tax in the event of a short sale?”  In most cases, the burden falls to the bank that is carrying the mortgage to ‘eat’ that cost, along with the other costs associated with selling a home.

For a brief time at the beginning of 2009, some sellers were required to pay excise tax on the amount of the shortage (the difference between what they owed, and what they were able to sell their property for in a declining market). Sellers in this category may now be eligible for a refund of excise taxes. Use the following link to download the required excise tax refund application form.

Should you have detailed questions about Real Estate Excise Tax (aka REET) or short sales, we will happily refer you to a CPA and/or attorney who can further assist you. Give us a ring, or send us an email for a referral list to professionals who specialize in these issues.

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