Washington State

House of Representatives

Office of Program Research



Finance Committee

HB 2634

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

Brief Description: Exempting a sale or transfer of real property for affordable housing to a nonprofit entity, housing authority, or public corporation from the real estate excise tax.

Sponsors: Representatives Walen, Barkis, Stokesbary, Macri, Chapman, Gildon, Chopp, Robinson, Senn, Leavitt and Tharinger.

Brief Summary of Bill

  • Exempts from real estate excise tax, the sale or transfer of real property to a nonprofit, housing authority, or public corporation if the grantee intends to use the property for rental housing for low-income persons.

Hearing Date: 2/7/20

Staff: Nick Tucker (786-7383).


Real Estate Excise Tax.

Real estate excise tax (REET) is due on the sale of real estate and transfer of controlling interest in an entity that owns real property in the state. The tax base is the selling price of real estate, including the amount of any liens, mortgages, and other debts. In the case of the transfer of controlling interest, the tax base is the true and fair value, or selling price, of the real property transferred. The tax is typically paid by the seller of the property, although the buyer is liable for the tax if it is not paid.

Beginning on January 1, 2020 and through June 30, 2022, the REET rate is:

Beginning on July 1, 2022, and every fourth year thereafter, the selling price thresholds are adjusted to reflect the lesser of the growth in the Consumer Price Index for Shelter over the past four years, or 5 percent. The Department of Revenue (DOR) must publish updated selling price thresholds by September 1, 2022, and September 1 of every fourth year thereafter. If the growth in Consumer Price Index for Shelter is less than 0 percent, the current selling price thresholds will continue to apply. The DOR must report the updated selling price thresholds to the Legislature within six months of publication.

A rate of 1.28 percent is imposed on the sale of real property that is classified as timberland or agricultural land, regardless of the selling price.

Tax Preferences.

All new tax preference legislation is required to include a tax preference performance statement. The performance statement must clearly specify the public policy objectives of the tax preference and the specific metrics and data that will be used by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) to evaluate the efficacy of the tax preference. In addition, an automatic 10 year expiration date is applied to new tax preferences if an alternate expiration date is not provided in the new tax preference legislation.

Summary of Bill:

The sale or transfer of real property to a nonprofit, housing authority, or public corporation is exempt from REET if the grantee intends to use the property for rental housing for low-income persons and receives, or qualifies for, certain eligible real and personal property tax exemptions. Eligible property tax exemptions are:

"Nonprofit entity" is defined as in RCW 84.36.560. "Housing authority" means a housing authority created under RCW 35.82.030 or 35.82.300. "Public corporation" means a public corporation established under RCW 35.21.660, 35.21.670, or 35.21.730.

Qualifying grantees must certify their intent, by affidavit at the time of transfer, to receive or qualify for the eligible tax exemption within:

If a qualifying grantee fails to receive, or qualify for, a property tax exemption within the above timeline, the grantee is liable for all unpaid REET plus interest.

The bill contains provisions addressing subsequent transfers of ownership and administrative issues. The bill is exempt from the 10-year expiration requirement for all new tax preferences.

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Effective Date: The bill takes effect on July 1, 2020.