Director's Rule 5-035

Freight and delivery charges

Download a pdf of this rule

Freight and delivery charges

(1) Introduction. This rule explains that freight and delivery costs charged to the buyer are generally part of the selling price. Sections 82.04.070 and 82.04.080 RCW, in defining "gross:proceeds of sales" and "gross income of the business," states that delivery costs may not be deducted from the measure of the business license tax.

(2) Amounts received by a seller from a purchaser for freight and delivery costs incurred by the seller prior to completion of sale constitute recovery of costs of doing business and must be included in the selling price or gross proceeds of sales reported by the seller regardless of whether charges for such costs are billed separately or whether the seller is also the carrier. The  sale is complete when the purchaser or the purchaser's agent has received the goods.

(a) "Purchasers agent" means a person authorized to receive goods for the purchaser with the power to inspect and accept or reject them.

(b) "Received" or "receipt" means the purchaser or its agent first either taking physical possession of the goods or having dominion and control over them. It means the purchaser or its agent has examined the goods and has accepted them.

(c) It is presumed that the person who is shown as the consignor (or other designation of the person from whom the goods are sent) on the bill of lading has control over the goods while the goods are in the hands of the carrier. It also will be presumed that the sale is not complete at the time of delivery to the carrier if the seller has personal liability to pay or has paid the carrier.

(3) Freight and delivery costs incurred by a lessor, regardless of whether billed separately to a lessee or not, are costs of doing business to the lessor in every case and must be included in the selling price or gross proceeds of sales reported by the lessor.

(4) Delivery costs incurred after the buyer has taken receipt of the goods are not part of the selling price when the seller is not liable to pay or has not paid the carrier. It must be clearly shown that the buyer alone is responsible to pay the carrier for the delivery costs to be excluded from the taxable value of the selling price.

(5) Examples. The following examples identify a number of facts and then state a conclusion.  These examples should be used only as a general guide. The tax status of each situation must be determined after a review of all of the facts and circumstances.

(a) XYZ Corporation in Spokane orders a repair part for its machine from ABC Distributors located in Seattle. XYZ Corporation requests that the part be shipped by next day air and agrees to pay the additional shipping costs. The seller bills the buyer the exact amount of shipping costs. ABC Distributors is subject to the business license tax on the amounts billed as shipping charges. The seller was liable to pay the air carrier and the buyer had not taken receipt at the time the part was given to the carrier.

(b) Jane Doe orders a life vest from Marine Sales in Seattle and she requests that the vest be shipped by United States mail to her home in Bellingham. The seller places the correct postage on the package using a postage meter and charges the buyer the exact amount of postage. The charge for the postage is taxable to the seller. The seller had liability for payment of the postage to the postal service and was required to affect delivery to the buyer.

(c) L&M Machinery of Spokane ordered a large piece of equipment from ACE Equipment in Seattle. L&M specified that the equipment was to be shipped by prepaid freight and free on board (FOB) the seller's dock. L&M requested that the seller use M&T Trucking as the carrier. The transportation charge billed to the buyer is taxable to the seller. The FOB point or other shipping terms are not controlling. The seller was required to deliver the equipment to the buyer. Delivery was not completed until the equipment arrived in Spokane.

(d) Jones Computer Supply, a distributor located in Seattle, sells computer products primarily by mail order. It is the practice of Jones Computer Supply to make a three-dollar handling charge for each order. No separate charge is made for the transportation. The handling charge is part of the measure of the selling price of the product and fully subject to the wholesaling or retailing business license tax.

Effective: July 15, 2005

I Kenneth J. Nakatsu, Director of the Department of Executive Administration of the City of Seattle, do hereby certify under penalty of perjury of law, that the within and foregoing is a true and correct copy as adopted by the City of Seattle, Department of Executive Administration.

City Finance

Jamie Carnell, Interim Director
Address: 700 Fifth Ave., 4th Floor, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 34214, Seattle, WA, 98124-4214
Phone: (206) 684-8484
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Newsletter Updates


Sign up for the latest updates from City Finance

City Finance manages the financial operations of the City of Seattle and oversees the City’s financial controls and enterprise reporting while working to achieve the goals set by the Mayor and the City Council.