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Taxes are compulsory charges levied by a government for the purpose of financing services performed for the common benefit. This does not include specific charges made to people or property for current or permanent benefits such as special assessments, or fees for services charged only to those who pay for and use those services.  

Information about the taxes typically of most interest to businesses are listed below. A helpful overview is published by the Washington State Department of Revenue:

Business and Occupation Tax

All individuals and firms doing business in Bellingham, whether located inside or outside the City limits, must register with the City Finance Department and are subject to the business and occupation tax unless, specifically exempted by Bellingham Municipal Code.

Property Tax

Washington's property tax system is a significant source of revenue for state and local governments, including the City of Bellingham. In Whatcom County, property tax assessment is performed by the county Assessor’s Office and collection performed by the county Treasurer’s Office.  Property tax revenues are then distributed to the City and other governments as appropriate.  

Although property taxes represent a significant source of funding for City services, the portion of each property owner’s tax bill that is distributed to the City is about 25%. In 2007, the total property tax rate in Bellingham is $10.91 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, with $2.54 (per $1,000 assessed valuation) of that going to the City.

The links below provide information to help property owners understand how property taxes are calculated and collected:

Sales Tax

The retail sales tax is Washington’s principal tax source. Local retail sales and use taxes provide important funding sources for local governments, including the City of Bellingham. Sales and use taxes are collected by the state Department of Revenue. The state portion is deposited in the state General Fund. City and county taxes are returned to the local governments. Specifically designated taxes must be used to operate the program(s) they fund. 

Utility Tax

This tax is similar to the gross receipts business and occupation tax except it is imposed on utility businesses. The business activities affected by this tax are telephone, cellular, gas, electric, cable and garbage. The rate is 6%. City-operated utilities (water, wastewater / sewer, and stormwater) also are subject to a utilities tax of 11.5%.

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