Car-tab bills dropping by $15

By Mike Lindblom
Seattle Times staff reporter


Olympia, WA - Vehicle owners in King and Pierce counties will get a stocking stuffer from anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman this month: a savings of $15 when they renew their license tabs.

The Department of Licensing recently implemented Eyman's Initiative 776, after the state Supreme Court on Oct. 30 found the measure constitutional. It took a few weeks for the department to reprogram its computers to remove a $15 annual roads fee in the two counties.

In addition, state "gross-weight" fees on pickups and small trucks of less than 8,000 pounds have been reduced so owners pay only the standard $30 statewide tax.

The annual Sound Transit tax, assessed at $30 per $10,000 of vehicle value in the urban areas of Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, will still be charged. Although I-776 targeted that tax, Sound Transit says it can still collect it at existing rates until 2028, the expiration date of some bonds that are backed partly by the car-tab tax. Whether the transit tax actually continues long term will probably be decided in future King County Superior Court proceedings.

The licensing department mailed out its first batch of revised, lower bills at the end of November for the January tabs. But people with December bills can also pay less.

Pay for tabs online

The Department of Licensing provides an online payment service and answers to frequently asked questions at

Here's what to expect in the transition:

Car owners with December tabs (or expired tabs) who renew them at a licensing agency will be told by clerks to pay $15 less than the total bill, which includes the obsolete roads fee.

If you recently mailed your payment for December tabs, the county auditors will return the check and tell you to write a new one for a lower amount, "which is a pain in the neck, but the way it has to be done," said Licensing spokesman Brad Benfield.

If you're a car owner who hasn't paid the December bill yet, you should mail a check for $15 less, subtracting the roads fee from the total.

Owners of light trucks should renew December tabs in person, or phone a local licensing agency, because the gross-weight billing system is more complicated, Benfield said.

All bills for January and beyond will display the lower tax amounts and should be paid as shown.

Eventually, about 2.5 million rebate checks will be sent to vehicle owners who have paid the county roads fee or state gross-weight truck fee since voters approved the initiative in November 2002.

Car-tab taxes to build the Green Line monorail in Seattle are not affected by I-776 and must still be paid.

The tax cuts take away $18 million a year from state highways, as well as about $15 million a year from road improvements in unincorporated King County, Seattle and suburban cities.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or


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