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Old 09-19-2018, 08:51 AM   #1
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Where should we register our boat? FL? GA? SC? NC?

Hello all. We live in Charlotte NC and are purchasing a boat in FL. Our plan is to cruise FL, the keys, and eventually get it to Savannah or Charleston. 3 1/2-4 hr drive and a fun city to have the boat at while we do some repairs/updates.

As far as registration, are there any advantages or disadvantages to registering the boat in any of these states? I believe it needs to be registered in the state that the boat will spend the majority of the year in. Iím thinking itíll be a toss up between FL and GA. But if SC would be easier/cheaper, we can make that happen.

Thanks guys.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:02 AM   #2
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You answered your own question. "it needs to be registered in the state that the boat will spend the majority of the year in."
Some places are more strick than others on this, so you can judge for yourself.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:14 AM   #3
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You answered your own question. "it needs to be registered in the state that the boat will spend the majority of the year in."
Some places are more strick than others on this, so you can judge for yourself.
Right. I figured itís better to ask here because so many people have already dealt with registering in these states and know the pros and cons.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:28 AM   #4
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Check the sales tax in each state. Florida won't make you pay sales tax if you say you're going to leave the state within 30 days (or was it 90? I don't remember). They give you a temporary registration which is good for 90 days or something. The sales tax can be a pretty big hit depending on where you decide to register. The alternative is to document the boat instead; that's what we did. Bought the boat in Florida, got the 90-day registration, left the state and got our documentation.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:31 AM   #5
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Check the sales tax in each state. Florida won't make you pay sales tax if you say you're going to leave the state within 30 days (or was it 90? I don't remember). They give you a temporary registration which is good for 90 days or something. The sales tax can be a pretty big hit depending on where you decide to register. The alternative is to document the boat instead; that's what we did. Bought the boat in Florida, got the 90-day registration, left the state and got our documentation.
Oh I donít even know what that means. Is that instead of regeristing in a state?
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:35 AM   #6
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Oh I donít even know what that means. Is that instead of regeristing in a state?
Call the broker and ask if the boat is documented or only state registered.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:53 AM   #7
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Call the broker and ask if the boat is documented or only state registered.
He said itís documented.
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Old 09-19-2018, 10:03 AM   #8
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He said it’s documented.
Documented means registered with the coast guard. It may also need to have a state registration depending on the state requirements.

On the West Coast Oregon and Wash, require vessels being registered even if they are documented, just a different location for the state sticker. And the dingy has to also, usally the dink is too small to meet the documented standards.

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Old 09-19-2018, 10:03 AM   #9
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Steve, I'm dealing with a similar situation though I bought my boat in a different state and was thinking of visiting Florida. You're smart to ask ahead of time, especially if you have the flexibility to choose between those three states.
I've been reading FL laws and of those three you should check but I think FL now has a 6% boat sales tax with a cap at $18,000, not to mention a potential county or local tax. Its possible SC or GA could be a better deal, it's best to search their respective departments of revenue. The point is if you have the option to pay the sales tax in another state, it could mean a difference of thousands of dollars.
You don't have to pay FL tax if you indicate to FL you intend to leave the state, but for the initial purchase, I think you have to leave FL within 30 days.
I did the USCG documentation but later I wanted to cruise through FL waters and I read that in order to be allowed to "visit" FL for up to 90 days, FL expects you to have a state registration from another state.
the 90-day period is mentioned under exemptions at this FL HSMV site.

One more factor for you is insurance. Several marine insurance companies are interested whether you will be below a certain latitude during hurricane season. Often this latitude is around Brunswick but it varies. This could be another way to save $ depending on where you decide to keep it.
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Old 09-19-2018, 10:42 AM   #10
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One more factor for you is insurance. Several marine insurance companies are interested whether you will be below a certain latitude during hurricane season. Often this latitude is around Brunswick but it varies. This could be another way to save $ depending on where you decide to keep it.
Yes, I guess we all just saw how that works out.
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:00 AM   #11
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Check with the boat registry folks in Florida as mentioned.

Not for registration purposes, as it is a documented vessel, but to see how long before you would need to pay the sales tax.

When you get to home port, you should check with the boat registration folks, but if is like anywhere up north, you will have to pay the sales tax.

When you return to Florida, or other spots, and exceed the "free" time limit, you may have to do some minor paperwork, but will be exempted from the use tax if you can show you have paid it in your home state.

There is no free lunch.

There are folks who have an elaborate travel itinerary based on moving from a state before any use tax is due. Really?
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:29 AM   #12
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Check with the boat registry folks in Florida as mentioned.

Not for registration purposes, as it is a documented vessel, but to see how long before you would need to pay the sales tax.

When you get to home port, you should check with the boat registration folks, but if is like anywhere up north, you will have to pay the sales tax.

When you return to Florida, or other spots, and exceed the "free" time limit, you may have to do some minor paperwork, but will be exempted from the use tax if you can show you have paid it in your home state.

There is no free lunch.

There are folks who have an elaborate travel itinerary based on moving from a state before any use tax is due. Really?
Florida is 6% sales tax, maximum of $18000, $170 registration (and it does still apply for a documented boat), no property taxes. If leaving the state and going to register elsewhere, you must get a sticker allowing 90 days to leave. Upon leaving, you must register and pay sales or use tax elsewhere within 30 days to avoid Florida sales tax.

Still, Florida is likely to be your lowest cost among the states you mentioned. Check each state's website. All four states from FL to NC do have sales tax on boats and all four do require registration. I don't know for sure, off the top of my head, which ones have property taxes on boats, but I think Florida may be the only one that doesn't. Still property tax obligation is going to be based on the physical location of the boat, not just on where registered.
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:36 AM   #13
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Plus after 60 days, you will have to register in GA or SC I am pretty sure...
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:39 AM   #14
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My head is spinning. I guess I’m over thinking it. NC does have property taxes. I thought I read that SC has a cap on tax. Maybe I’ll just get the temporary registration from FL and figure it out later.
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:48 AM   #15
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Greetings,
Mr. S91. We kept our boat in NC for 5 years and paid county tax yearly. What I remember is that each county had a different tax rate (%'age of value). I think Camden county had one of the cheapest rates @ 3%. I think others were up to 6%. Might be worth searching for a "cheap" county to store.
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Old 09-19-2018, 12:06 PM   #16
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Yeah its very difficult to read through all the legal tax jargon on the DOR sites for every state but its a legitimate concern and worthwhile to do the homework for someone in a situation where you have some flexibility in where you're going to keep it.
For example I think you're right I read SC boat sales tax cap is $300 vs $18000 in FL; huge difference.
Use or property tax though is a separate factor as Firefly mentions. It would be nice if someone on TF who lives in SC could comment on how their taxation works...
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Old 09-19-2018, 12:29 PM   #17
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Florida is GREAT if the boat is older.

Sure you may be stuck for sales tax , but if the boat is 30+ years old the annual licensing fee is usually under $10.00.
The boat will need its "origonal" engine.

In some states the annual fee is really high, even on older boats..

I believe if you register the boat in a no tax state for over a year , and then go to FL, no sales tax is due .

Good hunting!!
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Old 09-19-2018, 12:59 PM   #18
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USCG Documented really only means that is where it is Titled, not "Registered".

Florida:
-> Sales Tax: %6
-> Personal Tax: N/A

-----------------------------------

South Carolina:
-> Sales Tax: 5% with $300 cap
-> Personal Tax: yes

Personal property tax is collected annually on cars, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, boats and airplanes. Personal cars, light trucks and motorcycles are assessed at 6 percent of market value.

-----------------------------------

North Carolina:
-> Sales Tax: 3% with $1,500 cap
-> Personal Tax: yes

-----------------------------------

Georgia:
-> Sales Tax: 4% + local
-> Personal Tax: yes
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Old 09-19-2018, 01:46 PM   #19
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USCG Documented really only means that is where it is Titled, not "Registered".

Excellent way to describe it.
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Old 09-19-2018, 02:50 PM   #20
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My head is spinning. I guess Iím over thinking it. NC does have property taxes. I thought I read that SC has a cap on tax. Maybe Iíll just get the temporary registration from FL and figure it out later.
Just so you're aware, you may need to register in more than one state. For instance, if you register in Florida but then keep it in SC, you may be required to register there even if already registered in FL. Each state has a time limit. Now, I'm sure many here will tell you to ignore it or that they've never seen anyone ticketed for it. Also, property tax will not be determined by where it's registered only. Some states are more diligent than others, but most have some form of rules for January 1 while some indicate principle place of use.

You should be getting the documentation transferred meanwhile. For someone unsure of where they're ultimately going to keep their boat, documentation does give you the one advantage of not having to then change your numbers, but simply change your sticker.

A reminder too that the Homeport listed in documentation has nothing at all to do with where it must be registered or is subject to taxes.
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