Funding regional transit
How do we pay for current and future transit?

Regional tax information

Revenue from motor vehicle excise tax (car tabs), property tax, rental car tax, and sales tax make up more than half of Sound Transit's total funding.

In 1996, 2008, and 2016, voters within the Sound Transit District approved tax increases to build and operate the regional mass transit system. These taxes will help complete the voter-approved program to extend light rail to Tacoma, Everett, Redmond, Issaquah, Ballard, West Seattle and cities in between; extend Sounder commuter rail to DuPont while expanding capacity; introduce new Stride bus rapid transit service on I-405 and SR 522; and add parking and access improvements at station facilities.

TaxTotal Imposed/Levied
Car tabs (MVET)             1.1% ($110 per every $10,000 of vehicle’s value, annually)
Property tax$0.25 per every $1,000 of assessed value ($100 annually on a $400,000 house)*
Sales and use tax1.4% ($0.14 on a $10 taxable purchase)
Rental car sales tax0.8% ($0.80 on a $100 car rental)

*$0.25 per $1,000 of assessed value is the maximum allowable rate. The actual imposed rate changes each year based on the Sound Transit Board-approved levy and the combined assessed property values within the taxing district boundary. The value of the previous year’s approved levy may only be increased by 1% in determining the new allowable levy.

  • Additional taxes took effect with voter approval of ST3 in November 2016. An additional 0.5% sales and use tax took effect April 1, 2017, bringing the total tax rate to 1.4%; an additional 0.8% car tab tax (MVET) began March 1, 2017 for new and renewal vehicle registrations, bringing the total tax rate to 1.1%; and a new property tax of $0.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation began Jan. 1, 2017.
  • In 2028, the 0.3% car tab tax approved by voters in 1996 will expire. This will reduce total car tab taxes from 1.1% to the 0.8% level approved by voters in 2016.
  • An additional rental car increase of up to 1.372% ($1.37 on a $100 car rental) can be authorized by the Sound Transit Board in the future.
  • As a part of Sound Transit’s commitment to public accountability, the Board has pledged that local taxes will be rolled back to the level required for permanent operations and debt service after the voter-approved ST3, ST2, and Sound Move plans are completed and implemented.

Sound Transit's subarea equity policy 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, East King County, South King County, and Pierce County.


Car tab/Motor Vehicle Excise Tax

  • The Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) is an RTA tax charged upon purchase or annual renewal of car tabs. It’s currently calculated from the depreciated value of your vehicle by using a formula based on the vehicle manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), or purchase price for commercial trucks and commercial trailers, and a depreciation schedule based on the age of the vehicle. The depreciation schedule, set by state law, has been in place since 1999.

Contact the Department of Licensing with questions about the RTA MVET, such as types of vehicles subject to the tax.

The RTA tax is assessed at the time of renewal using the vehicle's address of record and is not pro-rated or refundable. Please make sure your address is updated with Department of Licensing in accordance with state laws each time you move.


Property tax

This tax is based on assessments of property valuations done by Assessor's offices in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. Contact the office for the county where your property is located with questions about assessment rates and appeals.

Seniors and people with disabilities whose primary residences are in Washington state who meet household income and other eligibility requirements can utilize programs that help reduce or defer property taxes and/or special assessments. Visit the Department of Revenue for information about property tax exemption or deferral programs.


Sales and use tax

With voter approval in November 2016, the Regional Transit Authority portion of the sales and use tax paid on purchases made within the Sound Transit District increased from the 0.9% authorized by voters in 2008 to 1.4%, or 14 cents on a $10.00 purchase. To see the total level of all state and local sales and use tax collected in your city, including the RTA tax, visit the Department of Revenue.