Washington i/ˈwɒʃɪŋtən/ is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States located north of Oregon, west of Idaho, and south of the Canadian province of British Columbia on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Named after George Washington, the first President of the United States, the state was carved out of the western part of the Washington Territory which had been ceded by Britain in 1846 by the Oregon Treaty as a settlement of the Oregon Boundary Dispute. It was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889.
Washington is the 18th most extensive and the 13th most populous of the 50 United States. Approximately 60 percent of Washington’s residents live in the Seattle metropolitan area, the center of transportation, business, and industry along the Puget Sound region of the Salish Sea, an inlet of the Pacific consisting of numerous islands, deep fjords, and bays carved out by glaciers. The remainder of the state consists of deep rainforests in the west, mountain ranges in the west, center, northeast and far southeast, and a semi-arid eastern basin given over to intensive agriculture. After California, Washington is the second most populous state on the West Coast and in the Western United States.
Washington is a leading lumber producer. Its rugged surface is rich in stands of Douglas fir, hemlock, ponderosa and white pine, spruce, larch, and cedar. The state is the biggest producer of apples, lentils, dry edible peas, hops, pears, red raspberries, spearmint oil, and sweet cherries, and ranks high in the production of apricots, asparagus, grapes, peppermint oil, and potatoes. Livestock and livestock products make important contributions to total farm revenue and the commercial fishing catch of salmon, halibut, and bottomfish makes a significant contribution to the state’s economy.
Manufacturing industries in Washington include aircraft and missiles, shipbuilding and other transportation equipment, lumber, food processing, metals and metal products, chemicals, and machinery. Washington has over 1,000 dams, including the Grand Coulee Dam, built for a variety of purposes including irrigation, power, flood control, and water storage.
Although its official, unambiguous name is “The State of Washington,” the state’s name is often reversed and referred to as “Washington state” to distinguish it from Washington, D.C., also named for George Washington. Another nickname is “the Evergreen State.” Its largest city is Seattle, situated in the west, followed by Spokane, located in the east, and its capital is Olympia.
The state of Washington is one of only seven states that does not levy a personal income tax. The state also does not collect a corporate income tax or franchise tax. However, Washington businesses are responsible for various other state levies, including the business and occupation tax (B & O), a gross receipts tax which charges varying rates for different types of
Washington’s state base sales tax is 6.5 percent which is combined with a local rate. As of April 2010, the rate is 9.5 percent in Seattle and other cities. These taxes apply to services as well as products. Most foods are exempt from sales tax; however, prepared foods, dietary supplements and soft drinks remain taxable. The combined state and local retail sales tax rates increase the taxes paid by consumers, depending on the variable local sales tax rates, generally between 8 and 9 percent.
An excise tax applies to certain select products such as gasoline, cigarettes, and alcoholic beverages. Property tax was the first tax levied in the state of Washington and its collection accounts for about 30 percent of Washington’s total state and local revenue. It continues to be the most important revenue source for public schools, fire protection, libraries, parks and recreation, and other special purpose districts.
All real property and personal property is subject to tax unless specifically exempted by law. Personal property also is taxed, although most personal property owned by individuals is exempt. Personal property tax applies to personal property used when conducting business or to other personal property not exempt by law. All property taxes are paid to the county treasurer’s office where the property is located. Washington does not impose a tax on intangible assets such as bank accounts, stocks or bonds. Neither does the state assess any tax on retirement income earned and received from another state. Washington does not collect inheritance taxes; however, the estate tax is decoupled from the federal estate tax laws, and therefore the state imposes its own estate tax.
Washington’s tax policy differs significantly from neighboring Oregon’s, which levies no sales tax but a very high income tax. This leads to border economic anomalies in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area. Additional border economies exist with neighboring Canada and Idaho.