About Property Taxes
Your county assessor and treasurer administer property tax, they do not determine the billing amount. County assessors value (assess) your property, and county treasurers collect property tax.
Property taxes are one of the primary funding source for the public services provided by local government. Each government entity is required to draw a boundary area where they will provide those public services. Examples of local government services are schools, fire and EMT/Ambulance, county road maintenance, cities, ports, clean water, and libraries.
Your property's physical location determines what boundary area is used to build your tax bill. To illustrate what services a home owner is paying for, each property tax bill individually lists the local government entity (taxing district) that provides services to that property, and the amount owed for that service per year.
Property Tax Formula
Washington State has a budget-based system of property taxation. There are three main components to the property tax:
- Levy amount
- Assessed value (AV)
- Levy rate
Under the budget-based system, a taxing district establishes the amount of property tax revenue needed to fund their budget. The amount needed to fund the budget is called the levy amount. It is the total amount to be collected from the taxpayers by a taxing district.
Levy Amount + Assessed Value (000s)
Levy Rate (per $1,000 Assessed Value)
By November 30 of each year, the amount of taxes to be levied by taxing districts are certified to the county assessor. The county assessor then calculates the levy rate necessary to raise that amount of revenue by dividing the total levy amount by the assessed value of taxable property in the district.
By law, this number is expressed in terms of a dollar rate per $1,000 of valuation. For example, a rate of $0.00025 is expressed as $0.25 per $1,000 of assessed value. (Source: MRSC)
The billing and collection of property taxes is the responsibility of the county treasurer and is spelled out in Washington State Law. Everything is directed from when taxes are due, how payments can be made, and when and why interest, penalties, and fees are charged. These laws are set forth in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Title 84 - Property Taxes. To learn more about property tax laws click here.
The term "real property" for the purpose of taxation means the land, buildings, structures, or improvements. All standing timber (unless owned separately from the ownership of the land). RCW 84.04.090 fully defines real property.
Personal Property Taxes
Business Personal Property is different than Real Property, but it is assessed and taxed similarly. Business personal property assets are all movable furniture, fixtures, machinery, farm equipment and supplies owned, possessed, or controlled by an individual, sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, LLC or association and used in the business. For a complete definition of personal property for tax purposes, see WAC 458-12-005 and RCW 84.04.080.