Sunday, March 03, 2013

Five pieces of red tape

I spend some time cruising various boating forums, and it is interesting how many long threads start with a seemingly simple question about red tape. Someone is buying a boat somewhere and wants to register it, or someone wants to avoid having to pay taxes on it (legally), or someone else is cruising and doesn't want to run afoul of state regulations.

You would think answers to these questions would be so apparent that there would be little need for discussion, but often the hive mind of the Internet turns up problems and permutations that most wouldn't dream existed. Here are five red tape oddities I have turned up:

1. When an out-of-state vessel visits Florida it gets 90 days of reciprocity before having to register in Florida, but only if the vessel already has a state registration from another state. In other words, boats that are only Coast Guard documented don't get the 90-day reciprocity and must state register in Florida. A lot of folks don't believe this, so I went to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, asked, and got the answer. You can read more about it in an upcoming article in Ocean Navigator magazine.

2. Unlike most states that give visiting boaters 90 days of reciprocity, New Hampshire only gives you 30 days before you have to re-register!

3. Visitors to New Jersey must have a Boating Safety Certificate when operating a boat, even if their home states do not require one.

4. In New York State all mechanically propelled vessels (except PWCs), including your dink, must carry an anchor.

5. Massachusetts excise tax is based only on how long the boat is and how old it is. Any boat that is at least 35 feet but less than 40 feet and 7 years or more old is valued at $12,000, and the tax is $10 per thousand. In other words, $120 per year for said vessel is paid to the town where it is kept on July 1 of each year, or where "habitually moored."


Dan said...

This reminds me of some of the odd laws still on the books in some places.

I've heard of various states requiring some sort of boat safety proof. I have a USCG documented boat and found out Kentucky (where I plan to use the boat) doesn't require state registration but Tennessee (where I live) does require registration along with mandatory boating education.

I recently found out that boats will be charged an excise or use tax annually where the boat resides regardless of the home port on the boat being somewhere else. I read that marina managers will walk the docks to identify which boats are there to report them for being charged appropriate taxes. And the amount of taxes can even change between cities in the same state.

John J. Kettlewell said...

That's all true--one of the pitfalls of having 50 states with 50 different sets of laws. Some states charge a whopping property tax on boats. Some states exempt your boat from sales tax if you have owned it out of state for some period of time, but other states want you to pay a use tax upon changing locations. It goes on and on.

Ronbo said...

If your boat is USCG documented and not incorporated your home address is easily available for state revenuers (or anyone) to troll and send an intimidating demand for a tax due even if your boat is primarily used in a different state.

John J. Kettlewell said...

I have had that problem several times. For example, I currently live in NY state but do not keep my boat here. I had to go through a long process proving to them a negative--that my boat had never been in NY state.

Dan said...

I can understand the requirement to pay taxes and figure it's going to happen no matter what I do but I'm looking at changing my hailing port anyway from CA to VA, where I hope to settle down someday.

John J. Kettlewell said...

Your hailing port can be anywhere in the USA--it doesn't have to be where your address is.

Ronbo said...

Maryland has a bill in the Annapolis legislature to cap boat sales tax to $10,000, even for vessels over $200,000. Other states with low or no boat excise tax have seen revenue increasing as the economy is slowly improving.