2017 Passed Property Tax Legislation


Property Tax Bills Passed in 2017 Regular & Special Sessions

The following is a summary of the significant property tax legislation approved during the regular session of the 2017 Washington State Legislature. We have included links to the Legislature site for each bill that adopted. These sites give a very complete picture of how the measures moved through the legislative process and provide copies of the measures that have been enacted into law. We have also provided contact information for our staff members that may be involved in the implementation of the bill or the ongoing administration of related programs.

HB 1166

Concerning Fire Protection District Tax Levies

HB 1283

An Act eliminating the collection of anticipated taxes and assessments

ESHB 1296

Relating to consolidating and simplifying the annual report and annual survey used for economic development tax incentives

SHB 1344

Relating to extending the period for which a bond levy may be increased

SHB 1467

An Act relating to removing disincentives to the voluntary formation of Regional Fire Protection Service Authorities, (RFA)

SHB 1526

Relating to exempting multipurpose senior centers from property taxation

EHB 1648

Relating to county treasurer administrative efficiencies

SHB 1747

Relating to the withdrawal of land from a designated classification

ESB 5023

Relating to delaying implementation of revisions to the school levy lid

SSB 5133

Relating to county boards of equalization

SSB 5138

Concerning metropolitan park districts

SB 5454

Relating to allowing fire protection district annexations and mergers within a reasonable geographic proximity and eliminating cross-county restrictions for annexations to a fire protection district

ESSB 5628

Providing for fire protection district formation by the legistlative authority of a city of town subject to voter approval

SSB 5977

Part X - Concerning removal of land from Designated Forest Land due to a natural disaster


HB 1166 - Concerning Fire Protection District Tax Levies.

The current law allowed fire districts to levy a third $0.50 rate, for a maximum of $1.50, only when the district had a full-time paid employee or contracts for a full-time paid employee.

The new law removes the requirement for fire districts to have a full-time paid employee or contract for a full-time paid employee before they can levy in excess of $1.00 per $1000 assessed value, but no more than $1.50.

However, fire districts cannot automatically levy the full $1.50 levy rate unless they receive voter approval in the form of a levy lid lift. Additionally;

  • If a fire district offers services to property located within a city or town, the cities statutory maximum levy rate must be reduced by the rate levied by the fire district.
    • This could result in a reduced levy rate available to those cities or towns annexed by a fire district.

This bill does not have any impact on cities or towns that participate in a regional fire service authority, as they are still required to have a full-time paid employee or contract for a full-time paid employee to levy in excess of $1.00 per $1000, but no more than $1.50.

This bill becomes effective July 23, 2017.


HB 1283 - An Act eliminating the collection of anticipated taxes and assessments.

Under current law, in order to record any document with the county auditor that results in a division, alteration, or adjustment of property boundary lines, both current and delinquent taxes and assessments on the property must be paid. Additionally, taxes levied and certified must be collected as an advance tax. Another statute requires payment of a deposit to cover anticipated taxes for the subsequent year prior to any person recording a plat after May 31 and prior to the date of collection of tax in the ensuing year.

This bill removes the requirement of taxpayers to pay an advance tax on real property prior to recording adjustments to real property boundary lines.

This will result in taxing districts, including cities and towns, no longer receiving property tax payments prior to the due dates in each tax year.

This bill is effective July 23, 2017.


ESHB 1296 - Relating to consolidating and simplifying the annual report and annual survey used for economic development tax incentives.

In 2010, the Legislature created the Annual Survey under RCW 82.32.534 and the Annual Report under RCW 82.32.585. Persons claiming certain tax preferences administered by the Department of Revenue (Department) are required to file one or both of these documents electronically by May 31. Both documents require taxpayers to report wage and employment benefit information. Only the survey requires taxpayers to report the total amount of the tax preference the taxpayer claimed in the prior calendar year.

A person who does not file the report or survey on time is assessed 35 percent of the tax preference claimed for the reporting period. A person who has previously been late filing the survey or report is assessed 50 percent of the tax preference claimed during the prior calendar year.

All the information provided by a taxpayer on the annual report may be disclosed to the public. However, on the annual survey, only the amount of the preferences claimed and the taxpayer's name is public information. The Department publishes the public information on its Internet website under Public Disclosure Reports.

The bill consolidates the Annual Survey and Annual Report into one document, the Annual Tax Performance Report, which:

  • Eliminates the requirement that businesses file both a survey and report when claiming certain tax preferences,
  • Reduces the amount of information businesses must report to that information which is found useful in reviewing the benefits of these programs, and
  • Makes all the information in this new report subject to public disclosure so all businesses are on a level playing field when it comes to disclosing who is claiming the preferences and for how much.

The effective date of this bill is January 1, 2018.

SHB 1344 - Relating to extending the period for which a bond levy may be increased.

Under current law, the growth of regular property tax levy revenue may increase annually by up to one percent, depending upon the district's population. With voter approval, a taxing district may exceed the annual growth limit, commonly referred to as a "levy lid lift." Currently, levy lid lift proceeds dedicated to repay bond debt cannot exceed nine years.

This bill allows taxing districts in Thurston County, upon voter approval, to increase the maximum period from nine years to 25 years in which the district may raise their property tax growth limit to repay bond debt.

This bill is effective for taxes levied for collection in 2018 and thereafter.


SHB 1467 - An Act relating to removing disincentives to the voluntary formation of Regional Fire Protection Service Authorities, (RFA).

Current law provides the ability for RFA to ask voters to approve an initial benefit assessment charge. The charge may be approved for up to six years. It requires 60 percent approval at a general or special election where voters may renew or continue a benefit assessment charge for up to six years. If an RFA levies the charge, they are not able to levy their third $0.50 property tax levy.

The new law:

  • Directs a RFA's highest lawful levy to be determined as if they are not levying a benefit assessment just like fire district existing language.
  • Synchronizes the fire district and RFA benefit assessment charge language between the two types of districts and allows an RFA to continue imposing benefit charge for six years with ballot measure approval by a simple majority.
  • Exempts certain government and nonprofit organization properties from the benefit charge, while establishing a procedure to impose charges for those having high emergency service needs.
  • Allows an RFA to protect up to $0.25 of their levy rate outside of the $5.90 levy limitation similar to fire districts.

This bill is effective upon the Governor's signature, except the language regarding the $5.90 limitation which becomes effective July 23, 2017.


SHB 1526 - Relating to exempting multipurpose senior centers from property taxation.

This bill creates a property tax exemption for one or more contiguous real property parcels and personal property owned by a nonprofit "senior citizen organization."

A "senior citizen" is a person age sixty or older. A "senior citizen organization" is a private organization that has a mission, in whole or in part, to support senior citizens, is exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code, and operates a multipurpose senior citizen center.

The bill requires the property to be used for the actual operation of a multipurpose senior citizen center, but allows for various other uses including loaning or renting the property for any purpose, fundraising events and activities, and operating a farmers market or thrift store. Inadvertent uses inconsistent with the purposes of the exemption will not nullify the exemption, if the inadvertent use is not a pattern of use.


EHB 1648 - Relating to county treasurer administrative efficiencies.

Under current law, county treasurers must provide an annual printed and mailed document to each property owner concerning the amount of property tax due. For property owners who are delinquent in paying their property tax, the owner and the county treasurer must make an agreement on a payment plan and the treasurer may not add any additional penalties that are not part of the agreement.

Under the new language in this bill, county treasurers may provide annual property tax statements electronically by publishing the notice on the county website instead of by mail including when property taxes are paid by a bank, the notice requirement is satisfied.

Additionally, the bill clarifies that county treasurers may accept and collect partial payments for property taxes, including partial payments on both current and delinquent property taxes. The payment agreement previously required under RCW 84.56.020 is now discretionary.

Under this bill, the definition of "tax foreclosure avoidance costs" is amended to include "direct costs" associated with administration of properties subject to foreclosure and requires that proceeds from these direct costs be credited to the operation and maintenance fund of the county treasurer conducting the foreclosure or distraint.

Also, the bill authorizes the use of electronic signatures on real estate excise tax affidavit forms for beneficial interest sales where no instrument is recorded.

Finally, the bill streamlines laws pertaining to county treasurers to provide cost efficiencies which will make it easier for local jurisdictions to plan for future software needs.

This bill is effective July 23, 2017.


SHB 1747 - Relating to the withdrawal of land from a designated classification.

The Current Use Program (Program) allows owners of farm and agricultural, timber, or open space lands to have their land assessed for property tax purposes on the basis of current use, rather than highest and best use, which usually results in lower property taxes.

  • The land must meet ongoing requirements to continue in the Program.
  • When land is removed from the Program, back taxes and interest for the past seven years are due, plus a 20 percent penalty.
  • An owner may forgo the penalty portion if they give the assessor an advance two-year notice to withdraw land that has been in the program for at least 10 years.

This bill eliminates the requirement that an owner must give a two-year notice to withdraw land that has been in the program for at least 10 years, allowing the owner to forgo a 20 percent penalty on any back taxes and interest.

This bill allows owners of land classified in the Program to convert their land to a different use and reduce the financial impact of that conversion.

This bill becomes effective July 23, 2017.


ESB 5023 - Relating to delaying implementation of revisions to the school levy lid.

Extends the 2018 calculations through 2019 regarding the way the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction calculates the maximum amount that can be levied by voter approved school district maintenance and operation levies.

Effective date: January 1, 2018.


SSB 5133 - Relating to county boards of equalization.

Under current law, generally, a county assessor must list and value property by May 31 and certify the county assessment roll to the county board of equalization (BOE) by July 15 each year. A BOE must meet each year for a minimum of three days, but not more than four weeks, beginning July 15. Under certain circumstances, the BOEs can reconvene to continue hearing appeals.

This bill provides that each year, the BOE must first meet to perform their duties related to the county assessment of property on July 15 or within 14 days of when the county assessor certifies the county assessment roll to the BOE, whichever is later.

The bill also requires that BOEs must issue their order to the taxpayer and the county assessor within 45 days of hearing a taxpayer's appeal of the assessor's valuation of real or personal property or other determination.

This bill becomes effective July 23, 2017.


SSB 5138 - Concerning metropolitan park districts.

Current law allows for a metropolitan park district to be created by a majority vote on a ballot proposition. Metropolitan park districts are generally governed by five elected park commissioners who serve six-year terms. The commissioners may levy a property tax not to exceed $0.75 per thousand dollars of assessed value on property located within the metropolitan park district.

The new law:

  • Allows a city, county, or group of contiguous cities or counties to propose the creation of a metropolitan park and recreation district with the following limitations:
    o Limit the purpose of the metropolitan park and recreation district.
    o Limit the statutory maximum levy rate from something less than $0.75 per $1000 assessed value.
  • Removes restrictions to a specific purpose when obtaining bond debt.
  • Increases the term from 20 years to 40 years for bond debt.
  • Requires the number of board members be the same when the boundaries of the metropolitan park district are the same as a city and the governing body of the city serves on the board of the metropolitan park district.
  • Allows the county treasurer to provide a bridge loan or a line of credit to the newly formed metropolitan park district for maintenance and operations of the new district under certain circumstances.
  • Allows the city to act as the metropolitan park district's treasurer if the metropolitan park district's boundaries are coterminous with the boundaries of a city.

This bill is effective July 23, 2017.

SB 5454 - Relating to allowing fire protection district annexations and mergers within a reasonable geographic proximity and eliminating cross-county restrictions for annexations to a fire protection district.

Under current law, a fire protection district may annex a city or town, or a partial city into the fire protection district, if the districts are lying adjacent to each other. Fire protection districts may also merge with another fire protection district if the districts are lying adjacent to each other.

The new law;

  • Allows a fire protection district to annex a city or town with a population of 300,000 or less if the city or town is located within a "reasonable proximity" to that fire district.
  • Eliminates references as to how a fire protection district may annex a partial city.
  • Clarifies that fire protection districts located within a "reasonable proximity" may merge with one another.
  • Defines "reasonable proximity" as "geographical areas near enough to each other so that governance, management, and services can be delivered effectively."

This bill becomes effective July 23, 2017.

ESSB 5628 - Providing for fire protection district formation by the legislative authority of a city or town subject to voter approval.

The Washington State Constitution provides general police powers for cities and towns, which include the power to establish and maintain a fire department to provide fire protection services within its corporate limits. If a city or town does not wish to establish its own fire department, it may also contract for fire protection services with another jurisdiction, form a regional fire protection authority with an adjacent jurisdiction, or be annexed to an adjacent fire protection district.

Fire districts may impose up to three regular property tax levies, each with a maximum rate of $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. Fire districts may also impose benefit charges on property within the fire district which are designed to reflect the measurable benefits a property receives from being within the fire district's service area.

This bill will allow a city or town to ask the voters to create a fire district that share the same boundaries of a city or town. The city or town must adopt a resolution containing the following information:

  • Finance plan for the fire district.
  • Set a date for a public hearing.
  • Reference the city's highest lawful levy that has been reduced by the fire district's first year's levy amount.
  • Estimated net dollar impact amount on property owners.
The ballot measure needs a simple majority voter approval. The first year the fire district levies, the city or town must reduce its levy by the amount levied by the fire district. Additional reductions must be made if the fire district does not initially impose any of the three $0.50 levies. The fire district may establish an ambulance service to be operated as a public utility as long as it does not compete with an existing private ambulance service.

This bill becomes effective July 23, 2017.


SSB 5977 - Part X: Concerning removal of land from Designated Forest Land due to a natural disaster

Under current law, the Designated Forestland Program (Designation) allows certain land used primarily for growing and harvesting timber, to be valued at less than market value. These values are calculated by Department of Revenue each year, and are to be used by county assessors in preparing the assessment rolls. Specific requirements must be met for land to qualify for this Designation. If property is removed from the Designation, by owner request, or the assessor due to change in use, the owner must pay compensating tax. There is no exception from the compensating tax when land is removed from the Designation due to a natural disaster.

Part X of SSB 5977 adds a new exception from the compensating tax. The natural disaster clause prohibits the assessor from imposing compensating tax when designated forest land is removed from the Designation as a result of a natural disaster. Natural disaster includes:

  • Flood
  • Windstorm
  • Earthquake
  • Wildfire
  • Other calamity
Part X of SSB 5977 became effective July 1, 2017.