Hawaii General Excise And Use Tax

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The General Excise Tax (GET) is levied against a business’s gross receipts for the privilege of doing business in Hawaii. The majority of business activities are subject to a 4 percent tax. Wholesale transactions are subject to a 0.5 percent tax and insurance commissions are charged a 0.15 percent tax. Unlike a sales tax, the GET is levied on the seller and not the purchaser.

Unlike most other states, Hawaii does not have a sales tax. But the GET is sometimes mistakenly called a sales tax because businesses are allowed to pass those taxes on to their customers. Collecting the GET rate from customers creates more taxable income for companies — a factor companies take into account when charging for goods and services. As a result, the customer pays the GET rate plus a little extra, essentially GET on the additional revenue the GET brings in.

All transactions on Oahu are taxed an extra 0.5 percent to help pay for the planned Honolulu Rail Project.

The use tax is the general excise tax’s complement and is applied to imported goods used in Hawaii. It is collected when the product enters the state. The use tax is 0.5 percent when the import is sold for retail, leased or rented, or used to manufacture or construct another product. For all other imports, the tax is 4 percent.

Together, the general excise and use taxes make up a crucial source of revenue for Hawaii. Typically, they generate roughly half of the state’s tax income – about $2.8 billion in fiscal 2014. (Individual and corporate income taxes, tobacco and liquor taxes and the Transient Accommodations Tax also help fill the state’s general fund.)

As a broad-based tax, the GET adds extra costs to the manufacturing of products at every step of the way, from the material supplier to the manufacturer to the wholesaler to the retailer. The GET is regarded as part of the Price of Paradise because of its cumulative effect on the price of goods and services. It increases the price tag of both living and doing business in Hawaii.

Because the GET makes up such a large portion of the state’s general fund, lawmakers have periodically looked at raising the tax rate to generate extra income. The proposal is often met with resistance because of the regressive nature of the tax.


The GET is an artifact of the 1930s when Hawaii was still a U.S. territory. At that time, Hawaii didn’t have flourishing retail or tourism industries on which it could levy sales taxes. Instead, its economy was based on sugar cane and pineapple, which were exported. Lawmakers used the GET as a way to collect taxes on those exported goods.


The majority of the state’s pineapple and sugar cane producers have shuttered. Today, the state relies almost exclusively on tourism and government spending to support its economy. Some see the GET as a barrier to doing business in Hawaii, arguing that the GET’s extra charge prevents new industries from making meaningful economic contributions and discourages consumer spending. The tax has also been criticized because it applies to the sale of basic necessities such as food and medical services — items that are exempt from sales tax in most states.

Hawaii General Excise And Use Tax

January 2017

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Friday, January 13

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March 2016

Thursday, March 10

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February 2016

Wednesday, February 10

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December 2014

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January 2014

Monday, January 27

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September 2012

Tuesday, September 11

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March 2012

Saturday, March 3

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February 2012

Tuesday, February 28

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Thursday, February 23

Hawaii Lawmakers Again Aiming to Tax E-Commerce Sales

December 2011

Wednesday, December 21

Number of Hawaii Tax Audits Falls to 7-Year Low

Monday, December 19

Honolulu Property Tax Overhaul Dead On Arrival?

Wednesday, December 14

Hawaii Sees ‘Optimistic Financial Picture’ Ahead

October 2011

Friday, October 7

Rail Price Drops Again In New Draft Financial Plan

September 2011

Saturday, September 24

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Friday, September 9

Hawaii Tax Review Panel to Ask for More Time

July 2011

Friday, July 22

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Thursday, July 14

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June 2011

Friday, June 17

Attorneys, CPAs and Bank Execs Named to Hawaii Tax Review Commission

Tuesday, June 14

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April 2011

Tuesday, April 19

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Thursday, April 7

GET Hike In Hawaii Is Dead

Tuesday, April 5

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March 2011

Thursday, March 24

Online Travel Companies Owe Hawaii $170 Million In Unpaid Taxes

February 2011

Friday, February 25

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Thursday, February 17

Road Paved for Raising the GET?

December 2010

Thursday, December 30

Delaying Hawaii’s Tax Refunds Seen as a One-Time Deal

Wednesday, December 8

Civil Beat Analysis: City’s Rail Tax Plan Optimistic

November 2010

Tuesday, November 16

Hawaii’s General Fund Down 6% So Far This Fiscal Year

Saturday, November 6

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September 2010

Tuesday, September 28

Hawaii Vehicle Registration Fees Favor the Rich

July 2010

Wednesday, July 21

Delinquent Notices Sent to Taxpayers In Error

Friday, July 2

Tax Department Employee Claims Retaliation

May 2010

Saturday, May 15

Warning: The Real Cost Of The General Excise Tax

Tuesday, May 11

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Friday, May 7

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Thursday, May 6

Nonprofits GET taken by state

Saturday, May 1

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April 2010

Wednesday, April 21

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