Our taxing district

The Sound Transit taxing district

Sound Transit's taxing district includes the most populated areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. It appears on tax statements as RTA (Regional Transit Authority). The RTA district generally follows the urban growth boundaries created by each county in accordance with the state Growth Management Act and electoral precincts as established in 1996.

PDF iconSound Transit district boundary map (pdf)

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Paying for regional transit

Sound Transit is funded by a combination of local taxes, federal grants, fares, interest earnings and miscellaneous revenues. Local taxes make up just over half of Sound Transit's total funding. In 1996, 2008 and 2016, voters within the RTA district approved tax increases to build and operate the regional mass transit system. These taxes are assessed only within the Sound Transit district:

Tax Total Imposed/Levied*
Sales & Use 1.4% ($0.14 on a $10 taxable purchase)
MVET (Car tab tax) 1.1% ($110 annually for each $10,000 of depreciated vehicle value)
Property Tax $0.25 annually per $1,000 of assessed valuation ($100 annually on a $400,000 house)
Rental car sales tax 0.8 percent ($0.80 on a $100 car rental)

* These rates include tax increases to fund expanded transit approved by regional voters in November 2016: an additional 0.5 percent sales and use tax effective April 1, 2017; an additional 0.8 percent Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET, or car tabs) beginning March 1, 2017, with new and renewal vehicle registrations; and a new property tax of $0.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation beginning January 1, 2017. An additional rental car increase of up to 1.372 percent ($1.37 on a $100 car rental) can be authorized by the Sound Transit Board in the future.

How RTA taxes are determined and collected

RTA taxes are collected from residents and businesses located in the Sound Transit District.

Sales and Use Tax: is collected by the Washington State Department of Revenue on sales within the Sound Transit District.

Car tabs: Sound Transit's motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) is collected by the Washington State Department of Licensing for certain vehicles, primarily passenger vehicles registered within the tax district based on vehicle value based on schedules established under state law. The amount appears on your annual license renewal or new registration bill as "Regional Transit Authority (RTA) excise tax."

Property tax: This tax is based on assessments of property valuations done by Assessor's offices in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties.

Learn more about RTA taxes.

What do these taxes pay for?

RTA taxes pay for the construction and operation of regional mass transit services, including Link light rail, Sounder commuter rail and ST Express buses. Mass transit provides an alternative to congested roadways, delivering riders to their destinations quickly and reliably every day.

Duration of taxes

Under the ballot measure regional voters approved in November 2016, the Sound Transit Board is obligated to roll back taxes to the level required for permanent operations and maintenance of the system following completion of transit capital projects, unless a future ballot measure directs otherwise. Within seven years of the scheduled 2041 completion of the system authorized by voters, Sound Transit and an independent advisor, Piper Jaffray & Co., have calculated that the entire taxes authorized in 2016 could be eliminated, along with approximately 11 percent of the sales taxes authorized in 1996 and 2008. This or an alternate mix of tax reductions could cut total agency tax collections in half.

The .3% MVET approved by voters in 2008 will expire in 2028, reducing the MVET to the .8% level approved by voters in 2016.

Subarea equity

Sound Transit's policy of subarea equity means tax dollars raised in each of the five geographic areas forming the Sound Transit District are used for the projects and services that benefit that area's residents. Subarea equity requirements are legally binding and regularly undergo independent audits.