Bill to clarify tax status of Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden clears House committee

Yesterday the House Finance Committee approved a bill I introduced that would clarify that the non-profit Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden is not subject to property tax.

Many people in our community have attended the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden and know what a great experience it is for families in our region and those who visit from other areas. The fair is a crucial part of our agricultural heritage in Whatcom County and it’s important that we take this step to ensure its viability. After all, as I always say, if Whatcom County loses agriculture, we’ll become just another place.

Senate Bill 5078 was proposed in response to a recent Department of Revenue decision to assess property tax on activities conducted on non-profit fairgrounds that aren’t directly related to the fair. Most fairs in Washington state are operated by counties and are not subject to taxation. My bill would extend the property-tax exemption to the non-profit Northwest Washington Fair and continue to allow it to operate as it has been – without being subject to property tax.

A change was made to the bill by the House Finance Committee to set an expiration date of 2019 for the exemption. This was to ensure taxation policy will continue to be examined by the Legislature not only for fairs, but also other entities that have transitioned from municipal ownership to non-profit status.

I appreciate the hard work of the chairman of the House Finance Committee, Representative Reuven Carlyle, on this bill and I look forward to working with him to address the broader issue of non-profit tax status.

Now that SB 5078 has been approved by the House committee, the next step is for the bill to receive a vote before the full House of Representatives. April 17 is the deadline for the bill to be brought to a vote by the House.