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Times' series on spending
(June 2002)
· Part 1
· Part 2
· Part 3
· Part 4

Sunday, November 17, 2002 - 12:00 a.m. Pacific

Questions and answers
Other taxes and fees
Q & A
Who pays the most and least — and why
Sales taxes
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Other taxes and fees
Looking ahead
There are a host of smaller taxes and fees — many of which finance specific government programs.

The cigarette tax is a good example. From the $1.425 tax on each pack, $1.01 goes to state health-care programs, 10.5 cents to violence-reduction and drug-enforcement programs, and 8 cents to water-quality programs (though last year some of that money was diverted to salmon recovery). Only 23 cents ends up in the state's general fund.

What are some of the other smaller taxes?

• There's an excise tax on real-estate sales, paid by the seller (1.53 percent or 1.78 percent in most places). The $589.2 million raised by the tax last year was shared by the state, cities and counties.
• A tax on hotel and motel rooms in King County (7 percent in Seattle, 2.8 percent elsewhere in the county) helps pay off the Washington State Convention & Trade Center. The tax raised $40.2 million last year.

• Manufacturers, groceries and drugstores pay a 0.015 percent "litter assessment" on 13 categories of products, from beer, wine and soft drinks to cigarettes, newspapers and magazines. The tax brought in less than $6 million last year but funded litter-reduction programs and squads of litter-collecting teenagers.

Now tell me more about those fees.

They're hardly small potatoes. In fiscal 2001, state government got about $617 million from licenses, permits and fees, and more than $1.1 billion in charges for services (much of that is college tuition). All told, those fees and charges accounted for nearly 8 percent of the state's revenue, up from 6.6 percent in fiscal 1991.

Local governments, with fewer tax options, rely on fees even more. Financial data for cities, counties, ports and transit districts show local governments get nearly one-third of their revenue from fees — $3.8 billion in fiscal 2000.

What are some of the fees I might pay?

They range from the tiny (10 cents a day for late Seattle Public Library books) to the hefty (almost $8,000 for all the permits needed to build a typical small office building). Other examples: marriage licenses ($46), birth certificates ($13), driver's licenses ($25 plus $10 for the exam), deer-hunting licenses ($39.42), freshwater-fishing licenses ($21.90) and King County pet licenses ($15 if the pet has been spayed or neutered).
?Did you know?
Taxes make up only 36 percent of local-government revenues. Fees for services account for a third; grants and other nontax revenues account for the rest. (Source: Seattle Times research)
Many of those fees may be heading higher as localities struggle with their own budget shortfalls. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has proposed raising some 367 fees and fines, from building permits to parking meters to trash collection; Snohomish County is debating whether to raise the fine for false burglar alarms.

Next: Looking ahead »

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