Higher-end Homes Hit by Excise Tax Rate Increase

Sellers of higher-end homes will pay more in real estate excise tax (REET) next year due to changes adopted by the Washington state Legislature. A new graduated tax, or tiered REET, will go into effect for homes sold on or after January 1, 2020.

Washington state has one of the highest real estate “transfer tax” rates in the country, according to a study by the National Association of REALTORS®. That rate will now be higher for sellers of homes valued at slightly over $1.5 million or more. The current single rate REET is assessed at 1.28% on the sale price of the home. In addition, most local governments in the state assess an additional one-half percent on the sales price, making the current effective rate 1.78%.

Under the new system, effective in 2020, the first $500,000 of value will be taxed at a new reduced state rate of 1.1%, saving the seller of a $500,000 home $900. For the value of the sale between $500,000 and $1,500,000, the tax rate remains 1.28%. For the value of the sale between $1.5M and $3M the rate is 2.75 % and for sales above $3M the rate is 3%. Because the tax is assessed at a marginal rate (the different rates apply on each portion of the sale), the actual break even point between the old and the new rates is $1,561,224 of value. Sales greater than that amount will pay more REET under the new system and sales under that amount will pay less.

The local government REET rates do not change and remain in effect. The combined state and local taxable rate is shown in the table above.

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