Washington, DC

Key Contacts

DC Office of Tax and Revenue
(202) 727-4829

DC Board of Ethics and Government Accountability 
(202) 481-3411

PCA Contact

Rachel Hall rachel@premiumcigars.org

Legislative Information

Taxation

Washington, D.C. imposes an excise tax on the sale or possession of tobacco products other than cigarettes and premium cigars (“OTP”) in the District. 

D.C. Code § 47-2402.01(a)(1)(A)

DC Office of Tax and Revenue: OTR Notice 2014-07 To Tobacco Wholesalers

As of October 1, 2016, the excise tax on OTP, previously calculated on a per ounce basis, has been changed to a calculated rate on wholesale sales. The calculated tax rate is equal to the rate tax on a package of 20 cigarettes, expressed as a percentage of its average wholesale price as of the previous March. The Office of Revenue Analysis has determined the average wholesale price of a package of 20 cigarettes as of the previous March to be $4.52. The combined cigarette excise tax was set at $2.92 per package of 20 cigarettes beginning October 1, 2016.

Accordingly, the rate of tax applicable to wholesale sales of tobacco products other than cigarettes and premium cigars is 65%.

Premium cigars are not subject to the OTP tax, but they remain subject to 5.75% DC general sales tax when sold at retail.

D.C. Code § 47-2402.01(a)(1)(C)

Notice of Change in Tax on Other Tobacco Products

DC Office of Tax and Revenue: OTR Notice 2014-07 To Tobacco Wholesalers

All tobacco products wholesalers must submit Tobacco Products Excise Quarterly Tax Returns (Form FR-1000Q) on or before the 21st day of the month following the end of each calendar quarter. 

Form FR-1000Q

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
Tobacco Products Excise Quarterly Tax ReturnForm FR-1000Q

Cigar and Smoking Tobacco Definitions

Smoking” or “to smoke” means the inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying of a lighted or heated cigar, cigarette, pipe, electronic smoking device, or any other tobacco or plant product intended for human consumption through inhalation, in any manner or in any form.

D.C. Code § 7-1702(7)

A “cigar” is any roll for smoking, other than a cigarette, where both the roll and wrapper or cover of the roll are composed entirely of tobacco.

D.C. Code § 47-2401(1)

A “premium cigar” is any cigar with a retail cost of $2.00 or more, or packaged units of cigars averaging $2.00 or more per packaged cigar at retail.

D.C. Code § 47-2401(7A)

Other tobacco product” means any product containing, made from, or derived from tobacco, other than a cigarette or premium cigar, that is intended or expected to be consumed.

D.C. Code § 47-2401(5A)

A “tobacco specialty store” is a retail store that is used primarily for the sale of cigarettes, other tobacco products, and accessories in which the total annual revenue generated by the sale of non-tobacco products or accessories is no greater than 25% of the total revenue of the establishment.

 D.C. Code § 7-1721(3)

Restrictions

D.C. law prohibits smoking in all:

  • Places of employment, including:
    • work areas
    • employee lounges
    • restrooms
    • conference rooms
    • classrooms
    • employee cafeterias
    • hallways
    • private residences used as childcare, adult daycare, or health care facilities
    • vehicles owned by a private employer, if the vehicle is used by more than one person
  • Public places, including:
    • banks
    • educational facilities
    • health care facilities
    • laundromats
    • public transportation facilities
    • reception areas
    • restaurants
    • retail food production and marketing establishments
    • nightclubs
    • retail service establishments
    • retail stores
    • shopping malls
    • sports arenas
    • taverns
    • theaters
    • waiting rooms

D.C. Code § 7–1703: Smoking prohibitions

DC Code § 42–3509.09: Restrictions on tobacco smoking

The following are exempt from the ban on smoking, subject to conditions:

  • An area where smoking is permitted by any provision of this subchapter;
    • A tobacco shop or store primarily concerned with selling tobacco and smoking equipment;
    • Upon the stage by performers during the course of any theatrical performance if smoking is part of the theatrical production;
    • A tavern or nightclub as defined in § 25-101(52) and (33), respectively; or
    • A room or hall that is used for private social functions, which includes weddings, banquets, and parties

The owner, manager, or person in charge of any restaurant having a seating capacity of 50 or more shall designate at least 25% of the total seating capacity as a nonsmoking area. Bar and lounge seating in the restaurant is excluded from this total seating capacity calculation. Smoking shall be prohibited in these nonsmoking areas even if, after a certain hour, food is no longer served.

Any new construction for the purpose of establishing a restaurant or major renovation, performed on or after March 29, 1988, to an existing restaurant, which has a seating capacity of 50 or more, shall contain a nonsmoking area that is at least 50% of the total seating capacity. Bar and lounge seating in the restaurant is excluded from this total seating capacity calculation. Smoking shall be prohibited in these nonsmoking areas even if, after a certain hour, food is no longer served. In accordance with DC Code § 7-1705(c), the Mayor shall define the term “major renovation”.

In areas where smoking is permitted pursuant to any provision of this subchapter, physical barriers or separate rooms may be used to the greatest extent possible to minimize the smoke in adjacent nonsmoking areas. Ventilation shall be in compliance with the District of Columbia laws and rules governing indoor ventilation.

D.C. Code § 7–1703.01: Designated nonsmoking areas in restaurants; new construction and major renovation to existing restaurants; smoking areas.

D.C. Code § 7–1708: Exceptions

D.C. Code § 7-741: Definitions


Retail stores and tobacco bars must submit a Smoking Exemption Form to the DC Department of Health, formally requesting the exemption. 

Individuals under 21 years of age cannot purchase, possess, or attempt to purchase any cigarette or tobacco product. However, this prohibition does not apply to a person under 21 years of age who is handling or transporting cigarettes or other tobacco products under the terms of his or her employment. Individuals under 21 years of age also cannot falsely represent their age or possess fraudulent identification documents for the purpose of purchasing, possessing, or consuming cigarettes or other tobacco products in the District.

D.C. Code § 7-1721.03


Similarly, it is illegal to sell, give, or furnish any cigarette or other tobacco product to, or purchase any cigarette or other tobacco product on behalf of, any person under 21 years of age. Any person who sells any cigarette or other tobacco product and who has reasonable cause to believe that a person who attempts to purchase the product is under 27 years of age must require that the purchaser present identification that indicates his or her age. 

Every place of business where a person sells any cigarette or other tobacco products must post a warning sign that includes the following:

No person under 21 years of age shall purchase any cigarette or other tobacco product. Sales clerks will ask for proof of age from any person seeking to purchase any cigarette or other tobacco product who appears to be under 27 years of age. The United States Surgeon General has issued a warning that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy.

D.C. Code § 7-1721.02

In Washington, DC, no person, agent, or employee of any person may, in the course of doing business, distribute any free tobacco product to any person on any public street, public sidewalk, public park, playground, in a public building, other public property, or private property open to the public. Free tobacco products may be distributed at a tobacco store, a convention, or a conference catering to adults; provided, that no tobacco product shall be distributed to persons under 21 years of age.

D.C. Code § 7-1731(a)

Operating Your Business

All tobacco products wholesale and retail businesses must first register with the Government of the District of Columbia, the Office of Tax and Revenue, and the Department of Employment Services by filing the Combined Registration Application for Business DC Taxes/Fees/Assessments (Form FR-500).

Each Tobacco Products Wholesaler must submit a Basic Business License Application to get a Cigarette Wholesaler License. There is a category license fee of $130, an application fee of $70, and an endorsement fee of $25. Cigarette Wholesaler Licenses are valid for 2 years from the date of issue.

Cigarette Wholesaler License Form

Each Tobacco Products Retailer must submit a Basic Business License Application to get a Cigarette Retail License. There is a category license fee of $39, an application fee of $70, and an endorsement fee of $25. Cigarette Retail Licenses are valid for 2 years from the date of issue.

Cigarette Retail License Form

Basic Business Licenses can be renewed online on the DC Business Center website. 

All tobacco products wholesalers must submit Tobacco Products Excise Quarterly Tax Returns (Form FR-1000Q) on or before the 21st day of the month following the end of each calendar quarter.

The following are exempt from the ban on smoking, subject to conditions:

  • A retail store that is used primarily for the sale of tobacco products and accessories in which the total annual revenue generated by the sale of non-tobacco products or accessories is no greater than 25% of the total revenue of the establishment, provided that it does not share space with any other establishment
  • A tobacco bar, defined as a restaurant, tavern, brewpub, club, or nightclub that generates 10% or more of its total annual revenue from the on-site sale of tobacco products, excluding sales from vending machines, or the rental of on-site humidors

D.C. Code § 7–1708: Exceptions

D.C. Code § 7-741: Definitions


Retail stores and tobacco bars must submit a Smoking Exemption Form to the DC Department of Health, formally requesting the exemption.

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
Combined Registration Application for Business DC Taxes/Fees/AssessmentsForm FR-500
Basic Business License FormsBasic Business License Forms
Basic Business License ApplicationBasic Business License Application
Cigarette Retail LicenseCigarette Retail License
Cigarette Wholesaler License FormCigarette Wholesaler License Form
DC Office of Tax and Revenue: Excise Tax FormsExcise Tax Forms

Political Involvement

A “lobbyist” is any person who engages in lobbying.

D.C. Code § 1–1161.01: Definitions

Lobbying” means communicating directly with any official in the legislative or executive branch of the District government with the purpose of influencing any legislative action or an administrative decision.

Lobbying” does not include:

  • The appearance or presentation of written testimony by a person on his or her own behalf, or representation by an attorney on behalf of any such person in a rulemaking (which includes a formal public hearing), rate-making, or an adjudicatory hearing before an executive agency or the Tax Assessor
  • Information supplied in response to written inquiries by an executive agency, the Council, or any public official
  • Inquiries concerning only the status of specific actions by an executive agency or the Council
  • Testimony was given before the Council or a committee of the Council, during which a public record is made of such proceedings or testimony submitted for inclusion in such a public record
  • Communication made through the instrumentality of a newspaper, television, or radio of general circulation, or a publication whose primary audience is the organization’s membership, and
  • Communications by a bona fide political party

D.C. Code § 1–1161.01: Definitions

A person and/or entity must register as a lobbyist with the Director of Government Ethics by filing a Lobbyist Registration Form and paying the required registration fee if the person:

  • Receives compensation in an amount of $250 or more in any 3 consecutive calendar-month periods for lobbying
  • Receives compensation from more than one source in an aggregate amount of $250 or more in any 3 consecutive calendar-month periods for lobbying, or
  • Expends funds in an amount of $250 or more in any 3 consecutive calendar-month periods for lobbying

D.C. Code § 1-1162.27


Each registrant must file the Lobbyist Registration Form, signed under oath, on or before January 15th of each year, or no later than 15 days after becoming a lobbyist. If the lobbyist is not an individual, an authorized officer or agent must sign the form. A registrant must file a separate registration form for each person from whom the registrant receives compensation for lobbying activities. The filing fee for For-Profit Lobbyists is $250, and the filing fee for Non-Profit Lobbyists is $50.

D.C. Code § 1-1162.29


Each registrant must file a Lobbyist Activity Report (along with Schedules A, A-1, A-2, B, and C) between the 1st and 10th day of July and January of each year covering the registrant’s lobbying activities during the previous 6-month period. If the registrant is not an individual lobbyist, an authorized officer or agent must sign the form. A registrant must file a separate activity report for each person from whom the registrant receives compensation for lobbying activities.

D.C. Code § 1-1162.30


Lobbyist Registration Forms and Lobbyist Activity Reports can be filed online through the DC Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (“BEGA”) Electronic Filing System. Lobbyists should receive their user ID, password, and PIN for the system in an email from BEGA. If you did not receive this information, contact BEGA at bega@dc.gov or (202) 481-3411.

Form Type / NameForm Number / Link
DC Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA DC): Resources for LobbyistsLobbyist Resources
Lobbyist Registration & ReportingLobbyist Registration & Reporting
Statement Regarding Lobbyist Activity Report DeadlineLobbyist Activity Report Deadline

Shipping Regulations

A person cannot offer for sale or sell other tobacco products in the District without having first obtained a license or licenses from the Mayor. Additional information about licensing in the District of Columbia is available at the Operating Your Business link above.

D.C. Code § 47-2404


In addition, any person other than a consumer who transports other tobacco products over the public highways, roads, streets, waterways, or other public spaces within the District, must have in his actual possession invoices or delivery tickets for the other tobacco products. These documents must show the true name and address of the consignor or seller, the true name and address of the consignee or purchaser, and the quantity and brands of the other tobacco products transported.

If the other tobacco products are consigned to or purchased by any person in the District, the purchaser or consignee must be a person authorized to possess untaxed other tobacco products in the District. If the invoice or delivery ticket specifies that the other tobacco products are to be delivered to any person in any state or jurisdiction other than the District, such person must be licensed under the laws of the other state or jurisdiction to engage in the business of selling other tobacco products within that state or jurisdiction. 

D.C. Code § 47-2405 Transportation of cigarettes and other tobacco products.


Further, any person who acquires transports into, or imports other tobacco products into the District must maintain and keep all records as required by District law.

D.C. Code § 47-2425

There are no specific provisions in the District of Columbia law that address age verification in the context of shipping other tobacco products. 

Washington, DC imposes an excise tax on the sale or possession of tobacco products other than cigarettes and premium cigars (“OTP”) in the District. 

D.C. Code § 47–2402.01


Tax on other tobacco products is to be reported on the FR-1000Q Tobacco Products Excise Quarterly Tax Return. Persons are still required to file a return with the District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue even if no tax is due for the reporting period. In addition, each distributor must retain itemized invoices and any supporting documentation used to complete this form for five years from the due date, or filing date of the report, whichever is later.


Additional information about taxation in Washington, DC, including information about tax rates, filings, and forms, is available under the Taxation and Definitions tabs above.


Disclaimer: PCA believes the information on this site is accurate. However, tobacco laws and regulations are subject to frequent change and court interpretation. Statements above are not intended as legal advice or restatement of law. PCA does not guarantee or assume responsibility for the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of this information, nor that this information complies with all federal laws or the laws of all 50 states. Parties acknowledge and agree it is not the intention of PCA to provide specific legal advice for particular individuals, but rather to provide users with general information to better understand these issues. Users shall neither construe any of these materials as legal advice nor make this site the primary basis for any legal decisions made by or on your behalf and agree to release and waive any claims against PCA for the same. You shall consult with legal advisors concerning any contemplated individual decision.