Because Washington state has no income tax, it has attracted mega-corporations like Amazon and Microsoft (their respective leaders, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates pay no state income taxes). The state has a gross receipts levy called the Business & Occupation Tax (B&O), but many companies receive an exemption from paying this tax.
Boeing is a major recipient of subsidies. Many programs have been tailored for the company and its suppliers in the aerospace industry (those laws do not name Boeing but they are written so narrowly that only a few specific companies could qualify), including a controversial $8.7 billion package approved in 2013. In 2020, after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled those subsidies illegal, Boeing asked the state to remove those concessions. Still, the company benefits annually from about $100 million in tax breaks. Amazon and Microsoft have also received roughly $100 million in tax breaks each year.
The Department of Revenue (DOR) administers dozens of tax subsidies. The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges manages the Job Skills Program, the state’s major workforce development program. Film subsidies are administered by the Washington Filmworks, a private, nonprofit, publicly funded organization created by the state legislature.
The DOR hosts two subsidy databases: a program-based one where users can see all recipients and amounts under a program name; a company-based one where users can see all program names and amounts that a company benefited from, along with the company’s statewide job and wage data. Job Skills Program recipients are disclosed in biennial reports posed on the Board for Community and Technical Colleges website.
The state’s tax expenditure reports include the costs for hundreds of tax-based programs. It is accessible as a PDF, Excel, and as an interactive feature on the DOR website. Reports are done on a four-year circle, a significant drawback. The state reports just seven mostly technology related programs under GASB 77; only about a quarter of localities do the same.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee evaluates various tax subsidies every 10 years. A citizen commission guides the process of selecting programs for evaluation. The Pew Charity Trusts gave the state high marks for its high quality, innovative, and transparent subsidy evaluation process.