How to opt out of coming payroll tax

By ELIZABETH HOVDE  | 
May 17, 2021
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If you want to opt out of a payroll tax that begins in January — assessed to fund a state-run, one-size-fits-all, long-term-care-insurance fund that you might or might not benefit from (read more about the coming tax on our Center for Health Care blog) — here is what we know:

  • You need to already have or purchase a long-term-care plan through a private insurer by Nov. 1. (It's a process, so get on it.) 

  • You can then apply for an exemption from the state between Oct. 1 of this year and Dec. 31, 2022, attesting that you have long-term-care insurance at the time of your application. (The state's opt-out form is not expected to be available until the enrollment window's opening date of Oct. 1. It will be made available in a format approved by the Employment Security Department.) 

  • You'll need to show your employer (and future employers) a letter from the state that says your exemption has been approved to avoid the tax.

The state's website about the program, called the WA Cares Fund, is here. We encourage workers to compare the state program's lifetime benefit, requirements for the plan’s use and the payroll deduction of 58 cents per $100 of income to the costs and benefits of plans that suit your individual needs, offered by private long-term-care insurers.

Right now, the WA Cares Fund website says of opting out, "Exemptions are for life. That means you’ll never have access to the WA Cares Fund benefit, which is currently $36,500."

We have asked the state to clarify if that also means the process of opting out is for life, if yearly attestation or proof will be required, and if the state can change the rules in the future. 

Update, 5/27/21: An ESD spokesperson got back to me last week and said that the law states this is a one-time attestation, and the agency can't change that. I was also told the Legisature could change any provision of the law in future legislative sessions.