A symbolic tax on Washington bike purchases?

The Seattle Times calls a proposed $25 tax on new bicycle purchases in Washington state “symbolic.”

There’s even a $25 sales fee on bicycles worth $500 or more that raises a total $1 million over 10 years, included for largely symbolic reasons.

This bike tax is included in a proposal by state House Democrats to sharply raise gas taxes and car registration fees to raise $10 billion for transportation projects. A supermajority vote is required to pass any kind of tax measure in Washington due to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1185, which (paradoxically) passed with 63.9% voting “Yes” (i.e. fewer than a 2/3 vote).

Although the proposed bike tax will be just a drop in the bucket for Washington’s billions of dollars in transportation projects, it can pack a wollop for the individual consumer and small business owner. A $25 tax is 4% of the value of an entry level $600 bicycle. Compare that against the 0.3% excise tax on new car and truck purchases. Both are on top of the 6.5% state sales tax and whatever local sales taxes that might apply. That’s a full magnitude of difference. The proposed $25 tax applies only to bikes sold for over $500.

This thing will be bogged down by politics as the Republic-controlled Senate will introduce their own transportation bill so I won’t get too excited about this proposed bike tax.

Discussion elsewhere:


  1. When they say it’s “largely symbolic” they’re absolutely right. Raising $1 million over 10 years is a pittance when it comes to road construction that costs roughly $1 million per lane mile, never mind expensive infrastructure like bridges. But we all know that taxes never go away, and over time there’s a good chance they’ll grow. It will be interesting to see what the Republicans do, since they almost universally hate taxes, yet on the other hand almost everyone hates cyclists too. (Yes, that’s a gross generalization. Feel free to play with it!)

  2. Just FYI.

    The sales tax in the Greater Seattle area is 9.8%.

    If this goes through, one could expect a lot more “attitude” from those “damn cyclists” when they are encountered on the streets of Washington State.

  3. Is there a way to tax hot air in Olympia? Wonder how much money we could make, or how much we won’t.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.