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Washington Retirement Tax Friendliness

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Overview of Washington Retirement Tax Friendliness

Washington State has no state income tax. That means income from Social Security, pensions and retirement accounts is all tax-free in Washington. Sales tax rates are quite high and property tax rates are below average.

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More from SmartAsset
  • Calculate your Income Taxes in Washington
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  • Retirement Tax Friendliness Overview
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Washington State Retirement Taxes

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/omersukrugoksu

The Evergreen State is an increasingly popular retirement choice for seniors on the West Coast. Natural wonders like Mount Rainier, Olympic National Park and the San Juan Islands are a big draw for those seeking an active lifestyle. The state’s tax system is just as attractive for many seniors.

Why? For starters, Washington State has no state income tax. That means income from Social Security, pensions and retirement accounts is all tax-free in Washington. (Many other states tax retirement income.) It also means that those who plan to work part-time during retirement can likewise do so tax-free.

Other taxes that will affect seniors in Washington include the state’s sales taxes, which are quite high, and property taxes, which are below average. Read on to learn more about those taxes and other important retirement tax rules in Washington State.

Is Washington State tax-friendly for retirees?

Yes. Washington State is one of seven states that do not have a state income tax. That means any income from Social Security, a pension or a retirement account is tax-free at the state level in Washington. Property tax rates in Washington State are also lower than average.

That being said, some taxes in Washington State are quite high. The overall sales tax in Washington is fifth highest in the U.S. Washington also has its own estate tax, with an exemption less than half the federal estate tax exemption.

Is Social Security taxable in Washington State?

No. Social Security retirement benefits are not taxed at the state or local level in Washington State.

Are other forms of retirement income taxable in Washington State?

No. Since Washington State does not have an income tax, no forms of retirement income are taxable. While retirees in many other states have to pay state income taxes on 401(k) income, IRA income and pension income, retirees in Washington do not. Federal taxes may still be due on those income sources, however.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SashaBuzko

How high are property taxes in Washington State?

Property tax rates are somewhat lower than the national average. The average effective rate in Washington is 1.06%, which means homeowners can expect to pay about $1,060 in annual property taxes for every $100,000 in home value.

While housing in Washington is generally affordable, in some parts of the state it is very expensive. This is especially true in the Seattle area. In King County the median home value is over $400,000 and most homeowners pay at least $3,800 annually in property taxes.

What is the Washington State property tax exemption for seniors?

Many senior citizens in Washington State are eligible for a program that reduces their property taxes. To qualify for the property tax exemption program, you must be at least 61 years old, unable to work because of a disability or a veteran who is receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. You must own and live in your home. Lastly, your household income must be no greater than $35,000.

If you meet each of those criteria, you will qualify for the exemption. It has two benefits. First, your assessed value is frozen as of your application year so that any subsequent increases in value will not affect your property tax bill.

Second, if your income is less than $30,000, some portion of your home value will be exempt up to a maximum of $70,000. The exact amount of the exemption depends on your income and your home value.

How high are sales taxes in Washington State?

Very high. Since Washington State does not have an income tax, it relies more heavily on the sales tax for revenue than many other states. The statewide sales tax is 6.5%, ninth highest in the U.S. In addition to that state rate, cities and counties collect their own taxes. Together, these can be as high as 3.1%. Overall, expect to pay a sales tax of about 9% in Washington.

Sales tax exemptions in Washington should help seniors and retirees lower the overall burden of the state’s high sales taxes. Prescription drugs are exempt from sales taxes. Groceries and newspapers are also exempt.

What other Washington taxes should I be concerned about?

Washington has its own estate tax with rates as high as 20%. The exclusion is $2.054 million. That amount is subtracted from the gross estate to calculate the taxable estate, so no taxes will be owed on an estate with a value below the exclusion.

Above the exclusion, rates begin at 10% and rise gradually to 20% for the portion of any taxable estate valued over $9 million.

Most Tax Friendly Places for Retirees

SmartAsset’s interactive map highlights the places in the country with tax policies that are most favorable to retirees. Zoom between states and the national map to see the most tax-friendly places in each area of the country.

Highest
Lowest
Rank City Income Tax Paid Property Tax Rate Sales Tax Paid Fuel Tax Paid Social Security Taxed?

Methodology Our study aims to find the areas with the most tax-friendly policies for retirees. To do that we looked at how the tax policies of each city would impact a retiree with a $50,000 income. Our hypothetical retiree is getting $15,000 from Social Security benefits, $10,000 from a private pension, $15,000 from retirement savings like a 401(k) or IRA and $10,000 in wages.

To calculate the expected income tax this person would pay in each location we applied deductions and exemptions. This included the standard deduction, personal exemption and deductions for each specific type of retirement income. We then calculated how much this person would pay in income tax at the federal, state, county and local levels.

We calculated the effective property tax rate by dividing median property tax paid by median home value for each city.

In order to determine sales tax burden we estimated that 35% of take-home (after-tax) pay is spent on taxable goods. We multiplied the average sales tax rate for a city by the household income less income tax. This product is then multiplied by 35% to estimate the sales tax paid.

For fuel taxes, we first distributed statewide vehicle miles traveled down to the city level using the number of vehicles in each county. We then calculated miles driven per capita in each city. Using the nationwide average fuel economy, we calculated the average gallons of gas used per capita in each city and multiplied that by the fuel tax.

For each city we determined whether or not Social Security income was taxable.

Finally, we created an overall index weighted to best capture the taxes that most affect retirees. We gave a 4x weighting to income tax, 3x weighting to property tax rate, a 2x weighting to sales tax and 1x weighting to fuel tax.

Sources: Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, state websites, local government websites, US Census Bureau 2015 American Community Survey, Avalara, American Petroleum Institute, GasBuddy, UMTRI, Federal Highway Administration

More from SmartAsset
  • Calculate your Income Taxes in Washington
  • Calculate your Property Taxes in Washington
  • Retirement Tax Friendliness Overview