Guide to filing a Hawaii state tax return

Sunset along Alii Drive on the beach town of Kailua Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Image:

In a Nutshell

Living in Hawaii can be heavenly, but you might have to pay a price for paradise. Every year, you’ll likely have to file not just a federal income tax return, but also a state return, with rates that run up to 11%. Here are some things to know about filing your Hawaii state tax return.

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This article was fact-checked by our editors and reviewed by Troy Grimes, tax product specialist with Credit Karma Tax®. It has been updated for the 2019 tax year.

The white sands, blue waters and rugged landscapes of Hawaii make the island state a veritable paradise.

But a complex state income tax system, with 12 tax brackets (the most in the United States), could make filing your Hawaii state tax return trickier than catching a wave on the North Shore.

Here are some things to know about filing your Hawaii state tax return.



What are some basics of Hawaii state taxes?

Taxing body

The Hawaii Department of Taxation, which is based in Honolulu and has offices in each county, regulates Hawaii’s tax law for personal income tax, general excise tax, and county-level property taxes and other taxes. If you have any income-tax-related questions, first check the department’s FAQ page. If that page doesn’t have your answer, you can contact customer service by emailing taxpayer.services@hawaii.gov, or calling 1-808-587-4242 or 1-800-222-3229.

Filing and payment deadline

You have some breathing room after federal Tax Day — your 2019 Hawaii state income tax return is due on April 20, 2020.

If you can’t file by the due date, you can request a six-month extension to file. If you owe taxes, however, you’ll need to estimate how much you owe and pay that amount by the April 20 deadline — even if you get an extension. Otherwise, you’ll be charged a penalty and interest on the unpaid balance.

If you don’t file your return on time, the state will charge you a penalty of 5% per month, or part of a month, on the unpaid tax bill, up to a cap of 25%.

Important tax deadlines to know

Filing statuses

Hawaii uses the same filing statuses for your state return as you’ll see on your federal return: single, head of household, married filing jointly, married filing separately and qualifying widow(er) with dependent child.

Hawaii income tax rate(s)

Hawaii has a progressive tax, with 12 tax brackets and rates based on your taxable income and filing status, which can make it complicated when calculating your tax liability. The 2018 tax rates range from 1.4% to 11% for the highest tax bracket.

What are some Hawaii deductions to know?

Standard deductions

If you file a Hawaii state tax return, you may be able to claim a standard deduction. For 2019, the standard deduction amounts are …

  • $2,200 for single filers and married couples who file separately
  • $4,400 for those married filing jointly and qualifying widow(er)s
  • $3,212 for head of household filers

Personal exemptions

In addition, you can deduct $1,144 for each personal exemption you claim for yourself, your spouse and your dependents. Blind, deaf or totally disabled filers who qualify can get a disability exemption in lieu of the regular personal exemption. Those exemption amounts are …

  • $7,000 for one individual of any filing status
  • $8,144 for a qualifying taxpayer and non-disabled spouse younger than 65
  • $9,288 for a qualifying taxpayer and non-disabled spouse 65 and older
  • $14,000 if both the taxpayer and spouse are disabled

Other deductions

As with your federal return, you generally can either claim a Hawaii standard deduction or choose to itemize deductions on your state return. But note that there are times where you might be required to itemize, including if you’re married filing separately and your spouse itemizes on their return.

Here are some other Hawaii state tax deductions that are available for 2019.

  • You may be able to deduct up to $5,000 paid in cash during the year ($10,000 for joint filers) into a trust account established to save for a down payment on your first house. You don’t need to itemize to take this deduction.
  • If you have a tree on your private property that’s been certified as exceptional by your local county arborist advisory committee, you may be able to take a deduction (up to $3,000 per exceptional tree) for qualified expenses related to maintaining the tree. You don’t need to itemize to take this deduction.
  • You may be able to take a deduction for student loan interest. But keep in mind that your state-level deduction may be different from the amount you were able to deduct on your federal return. You don’t need to itemize to take this deduction.
  • If you had qualified medical or dental expenses, you may be able to deduct the portion that exceeds a certain percentage of your Hawaii adjusted gross income (you’d need to itemize to take this deduction).
  • If you itemize deductions on your state return, you may be able to claim a deduction if you experienced qualifying casualty and theft losses during the tax year. While federal tax law only allows this deduction for losses from a federally declared disaster, Hawaii doesn’t apply that limitation to the state-level deduction. To qualify, losses must not be reimbursed by insurance, each loss must be more than $100 and the total of all your losses (reduced by $100) must exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income.

Does Hawaii offer state-level tax credits?

The state also provides a handful of tax credits. Credits that are available for 2019 include the following:

  • Refundable food/excise tax credit: Hawaii imposes general excise taxes on many things, including food. This credit is designed to give lower-income taxpayers a per-person (filer, spouse and dependents) credit to offset the excise tax on food.
  • Credit for low-income household renters: This credit helps taxpayers who meet income limits offset the costs of their rent.
  • Child and dependent care expenses credit: If you’ve paid for child or dependent care expenses during the year, you may qualify for this credit.
  • Child passenger restraint systems credit: The state requires that all children younger than 8 ride in a child safety seat or booster seat (only children ages 4 through 7) while traveling in a vehicle. This credit is designed to help parents cover the cost of purchasing safety seats.
  • Energy credit: If you install and begin using certain renewable energy systems like solar water heaters, photovoltaic systems or solar or wind energy systems, you may be able to claim this credit. Limitations apply on how much credit you may get and whether it’s refundable or nonrefundable, so check all of the qualifications before claiming this credit.
Learn the difference between tax deductions vs. tax credits

How can I file my Hawaii state tax return?

The Department of Taxation offers e-filing services for individual income tax returns via its DOTAX.eHawaii.gov portal. You can also file your Hawaii income tax and federal tax returns by using a tax professional or any tax-preparation software listed on the department’s website. There may be fees for tax-prep software, so review costs, conditions and terms before picking a provider. The state-approved list of providers includes Credit Karma Tax®, which is always free.

If you’d rather file a paper return, you can download your tax forms from the department’s website and either fill them out on your computer or by hand. You can mail your paper income tax return to one of the addresses below.

If you’re expecting a refund or don’t owe any tax:
Hawaii Department of Taxation
P.O. Box 3559
Honolulu, HI 96811-3559

If you’re including a payment with your return:
Hawaii Department of Taxation
P.O. Box 1530
Honolulu, HI 96806-1530

If you have an issue that you haven’t been able to resolve through regular channels, you may contact the Taxpayer Advocate office by email at taxpayer.advocate@hawaii.gov or by phone at 1-808-587-1791.

What if I owe and can’t pay?

If you filed your Hawaii income tax return by the due date but can’t afford to pay your tax, the state will charge a penalty of 20% of the unpaid balance within 60 days of the prescribed due date.

Plus you’ll have to pay interest on any unpaid balance at two-thirds 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.

How can I track a Hawaii tax refund?

If you’re expecting a refund, you can check the status using the Tax Refund Status tool on the Department of Taxation website. You can track your refund nine to 10 weeks after you e-file your return or 12 weeks after you mail a paper return.

To get an update, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number and the expected refund amount.


Bottom line

As you get ready to prepare and file your Hawaii state tax return, it’s essential that you know when your return is due and how to reduce your overall tax bill. Keep an eye on specific deductions and credits you may qualify for, and know how to avoid penalties and interest. After filing, you can go back to relaxing in your island paradise.


Troy Grimes is a tax product specialist with Credit Karma Tax®. He’s worked in tax, accounting and educational software development for nearly 30 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in business analysis from Texas A&M University. You can find him on LinkedIn.