A super simple guide to Hawaii GE (general excise tax). Learn what you need to know about these taxes.
Warning: Every tax situation is different and you may need more forms that are presented here. This is an introductory guide only, and we recommend having your tax forms filed by a professional. We try to keep all of our pages current, but some of the information presented on this page may be out-dated. Please read all Hawaii State-provided form instructions carefully.
What is Hawaii GE Tax?
Hawaii General Excise Tax is an additional tax (totally in addition to federal and state income tax) on the gross income of most Hawaii businesses and other activities. It’s very similar, but not exactly so, to a common state sales tax. Hawaii implemented this tax in place of sales tax, which is imposed by most other states.
Hawaii GE Tax is generally farther reaching than a typical sales tax, but the total rates are also much lower than a typical state’s sales tax.
Do I have to pay Hawaii General Excise Tax?
If you are asking – then you probably do. If you have self employment/business income, you are an independent contractor, make sales commissions as a non-employee, or you have rental income from being a landlord, then you have to file and pay Hawaii GET. Many other activities are subject to the tax as well.
There are a few exceptions, but these are somewhat rare. For a quick list of the exemptions, check out the form “Schedule GE” and look at the instructions at the bottom. For a complete list in detail, you can reference the General Excise Tax Law found here.
Note that even if you are exempt form Hawaii GE Taxes, you still have to file the tax returns to claim any exemption.
How much is Hawaii GE Tax?
2020 UPDATE: The statewide normal tax rate is 4%. But on Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island there is a 0.5% surcharge.
For many wholesalers and manufacturers with a wholesale certificate, the rate is 0.5%. Insurance commissions might pay at an even lesser rate, depending on the situation.
You generally cannot exclude your typical business expenses and deductions like you can with “income tax”. Instead, GE tax is computed based on your gross money received, before expenses, even if you did not make a profit.
How often do I have to file and pay?
Filing frequency requirements depend on how much tax you have to pay, or expect to have to pay in a year.
- If you pay more than $4,000 total in Hawaii GE Tax during the year, you are required to file on a monthly basis.
- If you pay less than $4,000 in GE Taxes during the year you file on a quarterly basis.
- If you pay less than $2,000 in GE Taxes during the year you file semi-annually.
Can I pass the tax along to my customers or tenants?
Yes you can – but you still must file the GE Tax Returns (forms) and pay the department of taxation the amount due. Actually, you can (and should) collect more of a percentage than you pay. If you do not do that, you will be out of pocket for some of the amount. The reason for this is complicated. If you would like to know more about passing Hawaii GE Tax along to customers, click here.
How do I get a GE Tax License?
If you have rental income or are starting a small business (or other self employment) you need form BB1 to apply for your General Excise Tax License. It also allows you to enroll for tax withholding and the unemployment insurance tax (and other licenses), if applicable.
Note that this form can also be completed electronically at the Hawaii Business Registration website.
Complete the form and include payment according to the registration fee worksheet, which is part of the form. Specific instructions to filling out the form are also included within the form, so please read those carefully.
You can hire us to complete and file it for you, as a third party, if you are unsure about how to fill it out correctly. We’re sorry, but for several reasons, we cannot answer your questions about filling out this form or help you to fill out this form yourself. This is due to liability, legal, and ethical issues.
This form should be completed right away if you intend to do business in Hawaii (or rent property). In some cases, you may have to wait for the Federal Tax Identification Number of your business entity if you are just organizing things.
Form BB-1 can be filed online or mailed.
How do I file the tax returns?
The Hawaii G-45 Form must be filled out and filed periodically at a frequency depending on how much GE Tax you have to pay for the year. They are due the 20th day following the period for which they are being filed.
Payment can also be submitted along with this form, whether submitted in person, mailed, or e-filed.
Anything else? Yes, the G-49
At the end of the year you have to file one more Hawaii GE Tax return (form) called the G-49. This form summarizes and reconciles the activity for the year – and often will not need accompanying payment.
Hawaii GE Tax Forms – Instructions for Filing General Excise / Use Tax Return
There are the complete instructions and the official state guide to Hawaii General Excise Tax posted on the Hawaii DOT website. This includes step by step instructions for filling out the tax return forms and for amended tax returns as well.
Filing frequency requirements are included in the instructions. There is also more important information about GE Tax exemptions and other specific tax activity classifications within these instructions. If your Hawaii GE Tax situation is more complex, you may need to file additional forms, as well.
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