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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Sales tax collections up

OLYMPIA – Taxes collected from all retail sales grew by 5 percent in Washington last year, the biggest jump from one year to the next since the recession began in 2008.

Figures released Thursday by the state Department of Revenue showed that taxes from retail sales, which make up nearly half of the $109 billion in taxable sales, rose about 5.3 percent. Mike Gowrylow, a department spokesman, said the drop in consumer-driven retail sales tax revenue bottomed out in 2011 and showed increases in all quarters of 2012. But “it’s not like a big boom,” he added.

Total sales were still well below the nearly $119 billion collected in 2007.

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Sales on which taxes are collected in other parts of the economy showed higher gains, with a 6.3 percent increase for taxes on food and accommodations, 7.6 percent increase on construction and 11.6 percent increases on motor vehicles and parts. The department tracks those sectors separately.

King and Snohomish counties showed the largest growth in sales tax collections of the most populous areas, while Spokane County’s growth in sales taxes lagged behind the state averages. But those numbers can be deceiving, Gowrylow said.

Spokane didn’t drop as much as the Puget Sound and Western Washington during the recession,” he said. “It didn’t have as far back to recover.”

But the tax numbers do show the construction industry was not recovering as quickly in Spokane as other parts of the state. While the state overall was showing a rise in taxes from construction materials, Spokane County saw a nearly 3 percent drop in the tax receipts from all construction projects, and a nearly 50 percent drop in receipts for heavy construction and highway projects.

(Editor's note: This story has been clarified to make clear that the dollar amounts reported are the taxable sales, not the amount of taxes collected.) 

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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