How two state tax systems have (and haven’t) shaped metro Portland

By Josh Goodman, Stateline Staff Writer

VANCOUVER, Washington — To understand how tough Tom Craig’s job is, you only have to take a look at the sign in the window of the store he manages: “NO SALES TAX—We Pay It For You.” Craig is the president of Sparks Home Furnishings in downtown Vancouver, a city that’s often overshadowed by its counterpart in Canada with the same name and by Portland, Oregon, which is directly across the Columbia River.

In Vancouver, the combined state and local sales tax rate is 8.4 percent. Oregon has no sales tax at all. To compete with Oregon stores, Sparks doesn’t charge its customers sales tax either. Craig says the store doesn’t raise prices to compensate for the cost, so the money comes straight out of the store’s bottom line.  “Eventually, I think all higher-end retailers will be gone from Vancouver and Clark County,” he says. “I think it’s inevitable. We’ll go to Portland to set up our store.”

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