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Regional transit taxes

Voter-approved funding sources

Local taxes, including car tab, property and sales taxes make up just over half of Sound Transit's total funding.  The rest comes from federal grants, fares, interest earnings and miscellaneous revenue.  In 1996, 2008 and 2016 voters within the Sound Transit District approved tax increases to build and operate the regional mass transit system.

Regional transit taxes infographic

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

Who pays Sound Transit Taxes?

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 Sound Transit 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.

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When do taxes take effect and how long will they last?

With voter approval in November 2016 an additional 0.5 percent sales and use tax took effect April 1, 2017; an additional 0.8 percent MVET tax began March 1, 2017 with new and renewal vehicle registrations; and a new property tax of $0.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation began Jan. 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.

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

How does Sound Transit assure that transit investments are regionally equitable?

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. The five subareas are: Snohomish County, North King County (including Seattle), South King County, East King County and Pierce County.