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How moving to the Oregon/Washington border can save you money

Category: Financial News

I recently took my first trip to the northwest coast and was pleasantly surprised to find no sales tax in the state of Oregon—so of course I bought as many new clothes as I could carry back with me to Colorado. You too can take advantage of this if you move to the northwestern United States, only it gets better. If you move to the border of the states of Oregon and Washington you can save all sorts of money on taxes—because Washington has no income and lower home prices.

Though Oregon has one of the highest income tax rates in the country, the state currently has no sales tax. This means that you can shop for clothing and food to your heart’s desire without paying a penny over the listed price once you get to the register.

Interestingly, though not surprisingly, this has led to a huge increase in alcohol sales on the Oregon side of the Washington/Oregon border. In addition to alcohol, it is also really valuable to travel to places without sales taxes and purchase high value items—like electronics and other goods that tend to be pricier—because you can save a whole lot of money just by not paying this sales tax.

Residents of Washington, on the other hand, while paying sales tax pay no income tax and far lower house prices than their neighbors in Oregon. Meaning that if you were to live and pay taxes in the state of Washington, but do all of your shopping in Oregon, you could cut yourself a huge tax break simply by commuting between the two states.

If you’re looking to move somewhere and simultaneously save yourself a lot of money down the line, the Washington/Oregon border is definitely a place worth looking into. It is also one of the more beautiful parts of the country in terms of both nature and art.

What do you think? Would you be willing to move to the northwest coast in order to save money on taxes? Or do you live in another border area that has similar benefits for consumers?

Read more:  10 Great Personal Finance Apps For The Thrifty Techie

By Louie Andre

B2B & SaaS market analyst and senior writer for FinancesOnline. He is most interested in project management solutions, believing all businesses are a work in progress. No stranger to small business hiccups and drama, having been involved in a few internet startups. Prior to his for-profit ventures, he has had managed corporate communications for a Kansas City-based Children International unit.

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16 Comments »
John says:

Lifelong Oregonian, moved to Vantucky for a job 4 years ago. Night and day politically between Portland and Vancouver, opposites you might say. Instant 9% pay raise when I slipped out of Oregon's grasp (sales tax). We bought a house here in Vancouver. Some houses/neighborhoods are marginal but you get what you pay for. Now 4 years later the job has moved back to Oregon. Recently property tax has gone up 20% year over year. I now pay Oregon income tax and Washington sales tax on non food items. No one is discussing the river/bridge situation. There are (10) bridges that cross the river that divides Portland into E. Portland and W. Portland. There are some commute/traffic issues on the (10) bridges over the Willamette River but it is somewhat manageable. The relevant commute issue for would be Washingtonians that would work in Portland are the (2) interstate bridges crossing the river between Portland and Vancouver. Yes, only two. Every day for hours at a time they both grind to a crawl during rush hour as some 300,000 cars commute from Vantucky to Hillsboro or other places in Oregon to work and then return later. Most of those cars have only one occupant. Washington is dead set against any plan to extend the light-rail system north across the Columbia river. Several attempts have been made to improve the interstate bridges but they bog down in Libertarian (Vancouver) vs. Progressive, green (Portland) politics. Add commercial interests that would suffer if another route to over the river bypassed their Vancouver customers elsewhere. Our household both of us commute to Portland daily. This adds 2 - 3 hours to every working day, sitting in the car and trying to be positive about it. Want to save a buck on sales tax? That commute might burn three hours of your time if you don't plan around the gridlock. We make our purchases part of the daily commute. This is not the place it was was I moved here so long ago.

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Michelle says:

A very large percentage of the folks on the Washington side work in Oregon. That's where the jobs are. They pay both Oregon income tax AND Washington sales tax.

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Crystal says:

Why is this? I’m considering a job in Portland and was thinking I’d live in Washington to avoid the income tax, but my research is telling me that isn’t such a good idea.

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Arnie T says:

No sales tax on groceries in WA, lower property taxes, better public schools, PDX is a short drive across the river if you want it, plus you can shop there for other purchases, you can get more home for the money, if you retire their OR can't get at your IRA, there are still many tax advantages to living across the river. Plus WA side of the gorge is better, Mt Adams anyday over Mt Hood. Lots of cool stuff that the snobs across the river aren't even aware of.

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In reply to Arnie T's comment, Dave says:

Arnie, I was born and raised in Oregon, a great great grandson of Oregon trail pioneers. I moved to Washington State as a young man and have now lived in Washington more than twice as long as I lived in Oregon. I married and raised a family here in Washington. I feel closely connected to both states and feel very proud and extremely lucky to have spent my life living in them. I don't think you can find any two states that are closer in terms of their culture, ethics and economies. Washington was of course even part of the old Oregon territory, so these two states are truly very close sisters. I know that the vast majority of people in both of my states are very pleased to have each other as their neighbors and truly consider each other as equals so I fail to see the need for any animosity between the residents of our two states. It seems to me that we have enough tribalism in this country already without trying to create more.

Chris says:

Of course, if you LIVE in Washington, you are supposed to file a form with the Washington State Department of Revenue, detailing your Oregon purchases and paying the required sales tax. How many do? Only the DOR knows for sure.

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Terry says:

You are supposed to submit use tax on your tax return each year for Amazon purchases and other on line purchases too, but nobody ever does, let alone the fact that most people don't do their own taxes because of how complicated they are to complete, so I highly doubt this is even a factor to consider. The government doesn't have the man power to audit every individual.

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Bryant says:

exactly, I was wondering the same...you are supposed to file and pay "use" tax for these purchases w/out sales tax. As you said most people don't and why would they if it's next impossible to enforce by the taxing authorities.

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amerycalven says:

Hy Julia! your shared information is really informative for me and other as well. i was looking for a good place to visit in my next vocation under low budget. After reading you article i think i found my destination for now. keep writhing dear good job.

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Jacques Fournier says:

I was interested in Portland/Vancouver for the same reason and just traveled through there. I'm not sure that the lack of sales tax is really resulting in lower costs for consumers unfortunately. For example, at a McDonald's I visited in Vancouver WA a "Big Breakfast" cost $4.11 after tax ($3.79 + $0.32 sales tax). At a Portland OR McDonald's I visited a "Big Breakfast" cost $5.05 even though there was no sales tax. It's tough to say why because there could be lots of potential reasons. Perhaps the high income tax, high property taxes, or regulations are causing producers to prefer to do business in Washington, resulting in a higher equilibrium price in Portland.

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Michael says:

I've worked on Washington side for 10 years and moved back and forth between Oregon and Washington side several times (usually for stretches of 2 years each) and there are huge pros and cons to both. You mentioned the financial pros of living and working on Washington side and they are big (I save about 6k a year) but the culture in Vancouver is that of a very generic and conservative suburb, with lower quality of homes or cookie cutter homes with little to no character that are more difficult to sell and not a very walkable city with the exception of downtown, which is on the rise. People also rarely interact with their neighbors, are considerably more religious and conservative (becoming more libertarian than GOP). It's a quality of life vs. financial issue. Six in one, half a dozen in the other.

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sasha kay says:

Hi Michael - thanks for the input. I just moved to portland & every1 keeps saying do the commute- from Washington but I'm thankful for your honest opinion. The quality of life is HUGE - people, housing, neighborhoods etc. Ill wait down the line for that commute. if ever. thanks! :0)

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David says:

That's exactly what I wanted to hear..... Not that I'm religious, but I'm more of a Libertarian and like my peace and quiet. I grew up in NYC and CA...hate freaken Liberal Democrats with a passion. I like to be close but not to close, far but not too far from businesses, but I don't want it next to my house. I want to be able to put up radio towers, don't want neighbor's kids on my lawn....not that I don't want neighbors, but don't want to reach outside my house window and pass the toilet paper out the window. I hate all those cookie cutter homes. I don't want the Yuppie home but a single story ranch style house with an outdoor shop with RV bay. I read this comment and you hit exactly what I'm looking for. Especially, as a retiree...on fixed income...I don't want ANY INCOME TAX. I lived in two of the most heavily taxed states in the nation so that I can cover people who don't work for a living. So as a retiree with a good pension, I can live anywhere I want. I want no income tax where I live, and cross the boarder for no sales tax. I have no problem paying taxes, but it needs to be a flat tax, equal across the board...until that happens, it's tax management and try to find the lowest possible. I worked for a living and never applied for Welfare and any other form of government employment assistance for not working. As far as paying taxes for roads, utilities....obviously I believe in paying my fair share. But, I don't want a large Law Enforcement agency but rather limited law enforcement....I believe in each person should be responsible for their own safety and security....CCW and learn personal protection. I can go on and on....but simply put, when seconds count they are minutes away.

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In reply to David's comment, TLS says:

Move to NV, or stay in CA Please!

In reply to David's comment, DLW says:

I love how people like you love to throw around phases like "people who don't work for a living" the vast majority of people on public assistance are just looking for a helping hand due to circumstances out of their control, an illness of a family member that drained their income, a layoff from a job they've had for 25 or 30 years (sorry fact corporations are systematically eliminating all the baby boomers), Military families that have the bread winner stationed overseas and struggling to make ends meet, there are hundreds of reason why someone may need temporary help from the government in the form of food stamps ( do you advocate letting kids go hungry?). As far as unemployment insurance you pay and pay into the system through a tax deduction and if you should lose your job sue to no fault of your own you receive pennies on the dollar compared to what you put in. Like you I've paid taxes my whole like and fortunately never needed any help. So ponder this question what about people just like you and I who have paid taxes year after year and suddenly hit a bump in the road, shouldn't they reap the benefits of all those years of contribution to the system? Are there people that figure out how to bilk the welfare system, of course there is. Just like there are million and millions of people who figure out how to reduce their taxes though questionable or down right illegal tax deductions, which one is worse someone who needs help or a tax cheat robbing soldiers and preventing our interstate highways and national parks from being maintain? One last thought you may want to check out Vancouver before assuming that it is a haven of conservative thought, I don't live there but I know many people that do and I believe based on what I've heard that there are certain sections of Vancouver that may be more or less conservative or more or less liberal. But it is a state that legalized marijuana and has voted for a democrat in almost every presidential election including the last 6. So how conservative could it be? You may want to look at Texas if you are looking for a truly conservative state.

In reply to DLW's comment, PDT says:

I live in Clark County Washington, just across the river from Portland. I moved up here from Austin Texas. Washington State as a whole is a blue state, thanks to the large metropolitan area in and around Seattle and Tacoma. The atmosphere is much different down in Vancouver (Clark County). Surrounding suburbs are extremely Conservative in Clark County, Specifically Battle Ground, Ridefield, Amboy, Yacolt, Camas, Washougal. Back in Texas, Austin is the only blue part of Texas.

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