FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQS)
Q. I am licensed to do business in Hawaii and want to prepare my General Excise Tax (GET) Returns. Is there a list of forms and instructions?
A. Yes, please see the General Excise and Use Tax Forms.
Q. I would like to start a business in Hawaii. What do I need to do?
A. Please see: Tax Facts 31-1, Licensing and Tax Information for New Businesses (PDF).
Q. What is the fee for a GET license?
A. A one-time $20 fee.
Q. How can I apply for a GET license?
A. The State of Hawaii Basic Business Application, BB-1 Packet, must be completed and submitted with the one-time $20 license fee. It is recommended that the application be mailed in; however, it can also be applied for in person at any of the district offices. The application form is available on the website.
Q. Where do I mail the application for the GET license to?
General Excise License Applications
P.O. Box 1425
Honolulu, HI 96806-1425
Q. Can I apply for a GET license online?
A. Yes, Hawaii Business Express is the quick and easy way to start a business in the state of Hawaii. One simple interface covers all the forms with all the state agencies and partners. For more information, please see the Hawaii Business Express website.
Q. Where else can I obtain a GET license?
A. One other location where you can apply for a GET license is at the Business Action Center which is located at 335 Merchant St Suite 201. Office hours are 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays (except State holidays); telephone number is 586-2545.
Q. Is there a fee to request a duplicate license?
A. No. The registration fee for a GET license is a onetime fee of $20.
Q. Can I re-activate a GET license that has already been closed?
A. No. Once a GET license has been closed, you will need to apply for a new GET license to continue doing business in the State of Hawaii.
Q. I have misplaced my GET license. How can I replace it? Is there an additional fee?
A. If you have paid the one-time $20 license fee, there will be no additional charge. Duplicate licenses can be issued by calling our Taxpayer Services Branch at 808-587-4242, or toll-free at 1-800-222-3229. E-mail requests will also be accepted by Taxpayer Services at [email protected] provided that current information is provided, including a telephone number, if there are any questions.
Q. How long after submitting a BB-1 application by mail, walk-in or online can I expect to receive my GET license?
A. The normal processing time for mail or walk-in applications is 10-15 working days. For online applications, an email is sent to you with the general excise identification number within three to five days and after this process you should receive your license within a week.
Q. What are the due dates for filing periodic GET returns?
A. The due date for filing periodic returns (Monthly, Quarterly and Semi-annually) is the 20th day of the month following the close of the tax period. For example: Monthly filer, filing for the month of January, the due date is February 20th, Quarterly filer, filing for the period ending March, the due date is April 20th and a Semi-annual filer, filing for the period ending June, the due date is July 20th.
Q. What is the due date for filing an annual GET return?
A. The due date is the 20th day of the fourth month following the close of the taxable year. For calendar year filers, the due date is April 20th of the following year.
Q. What is Hawaii’s sales tax rate?
A. Hawaii does not have a sales tax; instead, we have the GET, which is assessed on all business activities. The tax rate is 0.15% for Insurance Commission, 0.5% for Wholesaling, Manufacturing, Producing, Wholesale Services, and Use Tax on Imports For Resale, and 4% for all others. To learn more about the differences between the GET and sales tax, please see Tax Facts 37-1, General Excise Tax (GET).
The Legislature also authorized county governments to adopt a county surcharge on state GET at the 4% rate. The county surcharge does not apply to activities at the 0.5% and 0.15% rate. The following counties have adopted a county surcharge
- City and County of Honolulu: 0.5% effective January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2030.
- County of Kauai: 0.5% effective January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2030.
- County of Hawaii: 0.25% effective from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019, and 0.5% January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2030.
- The County of Maui has not adopted a county surcharge.
Q. Are we allowed to pass on the business tax to the customer?
A. Yes, a seller may choose to visibly pass on the GE and any applicable county surcharge t its customers, but is not required to do so. The tax is on the business and not on the customer. If the business passes on its GE tax, the maximum pass-on rates, which include the county surcharge if applicable, are as follows:
- City and County of Honolulu: 4.7120% (effective January 1, 2007 – December 31, 2030)
- County of Hawaii: 4.4386% (effective January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019) and 4.7120% (effective January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2030)
- County of Kauai: 4.7120% (effective January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2030)
- County of Maui: 4.1666% (no county surcharge)
Q. What is the formula for calculating penalty?
A. The penalty for failure to file a return on time is calculated at 5% per month, or part of a month, on the unpaid tax up to a maximum of 25%.
Q. What is the formula for calculating Interest?
A. Interest is calculated at 2/3 of 1% per month or part of a month, on unpaid taxes and penalties beginning with the first calendar day after the date prescribed for payment, whether or not the first calendar day falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday.
Q. Why doesn’t my billing notice show the total amount paid (CST payment/charges not shown on bill)?
A. The payment is first applied to the CST (Oahu County Surcharge Tax), including any penalties and interest. The remainder of the payment is then applied to the GET. In most cases because there is no balance due for CST, the current billing notices were set up to only reflect balance due amounts, which is usually only the GET. DOTAX is currently working on adjusting these notices to reflect the full payment and details of how the full payment was applied.
Q: I am doing work for a web platform (Uber, Lyft, Bite Squad, Door Dash, Rover, Instacart, Delivery Drivers, Grub Hub, etc.) and the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations made a determination that I am an employee for the purposes of Unemployment Insurance. Am I exempt from Hawaii general excise tax (GET)? Should I amend my tax returns?
A: For the purpose of GET only, until a final determination that the drivers are employees has been made (i.e., all avenues of appeal have been exhausted), DOTAX is treating you as an Independent Contractor (1099) since the platforms are not paying tax. Thus, you are subject to GET at the wholesale rate of 0.5%. Please continue to pay GET until a final determination on this issue has been made.
For more questions and answers such as the ones listed below, please see Tax Facts 37-1, General Excise Tax (GET).
Is the GET a sales tax?
What are the GET rates for businesses?
Are businesses required to charge GET?
Can businesses charge customers GET?
How much can businesses charge their customers?
Can businesses charge more than the maximum rates?
Do businesses have to tell their customers if they plan to visibly pass on GET?
If a wholesaler sells an item to a retailer who then sells that same item to me, isn’t that double taxation?
Can businesses charge GET to tax-exempt organizations such as nonprofits, government agencies, and credit unions?
Are nonresidents exempt from paying the GET on goods purchased in Hawaii?
- Tax Facts 37-1, General Excise Tax (GET)
- Other Tax Facts on General Excise/Use Tax
- An Introduction to the General Excise Tax (PDF) 20 pages, 136 KB, March 2020
- County Surcharge on General Excise and Use Tax
- Excel Workbook of the General Excise Tax Exemptions/Deductions by Activity Code as of November 19, 2020 (XLSX)
- Please also search our website for Tax Information Releases, Attorney General Opinions, Letter Rulings and other resources related to the General Excise Tax.
Page Last Updated: November 20, 2020