Litter Tax

Litter Tax

Does litter tax apply?

The litter tax applies to sales of certain products that contribute to litter problems.

Taxable products sold by restaurants generally include:

  • Food served “to go” or packaged for sale in to-go containers
  • Beverages served “to go” packaged for sale in to-go containers
  • Newspapers
  • Cigarettes/tobacco products

The litter tax rate is .00015 (.015 percent).

Regardless of where a restaurant is located, sales of food and beverages packaged for sale in to-go containers, or otherwise wrapped in a way that makes it easy to carry the food away from the seller’s premises, will be presumed to be subject to litter tax.

On the other hand, litter tax will not apply when food or beverages are served for immediate consumption indoors at the seller’s place of business or served for immediate consumption at an eating area that is contiguous to the seller’s place of business, and that is controlled by the seller, such as a deck or patio.

Where a seller serves prepared food with reusable dishes and utensils, to a customer on the seller’s premises for immediate consumption, the sale is exempt from litter tax even if the customer only consumes part of the meal and then requests “to go” containers to take any leftovers away from the premises.

A seller will qualify for exemption from litter tax only for those sales made in such a manner that it is clear that they are intended for immediate consumption on the seller’s premises, or an area controlled by the seller. To sustain the exemption from litter tax, the seller must be able to track and distinguish sales for immediate consumption on its premises and those packaged and sold in a manner that the food may be easily taken away from the seller’s premises.

References:    WAC 458-20-243

Washington State Department of Revenue Special Notice, Litter Tax Exemptions for Prepared Food and Beverages (See



Rev. 12/29/15


This article is an excerpt from the Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations (HERO), published by the Washington Hospitality Association.  Want a hard copy of the whole manual?  It’s one of the many benefits of becoming a member!  Find out more about joining the Washington Hospitality Association here.

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Categories: HERO