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Old 09-08-2014, 12:14 PM   #1
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California tax on Visiting boats

I have been reading up on the laws of the Pacific Coast states with regard to taxes as part of planning our next phase of cruising.

Here is a direct copy of what I found on the CA.GOV web site

Vessels previously registered in other states must be registered in California within 120 days of being brought into the state, if it will be used upon California waterways the majority of the time.

What is interesting to me is the last part of the sentence highlighted in red.

Does anybody have knowledge of how California deals with out of state boats, and out of state owners regarding this?

A good example as I see it is...

If I, as a resident of Alaska with a boat primarily used in Alaska wants to visit the state of California, and enjoy all it has to offer...

If my stay is under 120 days, I'm good to go.

Over 120 days and I would from my reading have to justify my stay as "just visiting". I think if I was berthed in a single marina that would be a hard argument to make.

I think if I was "marina hopping" say a couple of weeks or so at each marina showing a logical progression through the state, it would be much easier to justify a longer stay as a visitor.

What experience have out of state cruisers had?
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Old 09-08-2014, 12:39 PM   #2
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Don't forget about the phrase,
Quote:
Vessels previously registered in other states
Quote:
Vessels previously registered in other states must be registered in California within 120 days of being brought into the state, if it will be used upon California waterways the majority of the time.
Will your boat still be registered in another state? Course, what does this mean for documented boats?

*** MY *** interpretation of that sentence is that if I move a boat to CA and the intent is to keep the boat in CA, said boat must be registered in CA. If I am just cruising through I don't need to register. "Previously registered" is important. "Majority of time" is important too with majority based on a year, 5 years, 10 years, 3 months? Kinda poorly written.

Of course *** MY *** interpretation might not be the interpretation of the tax hungry CA government.

Later,
Dan
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Old 09-08-2014, 12:45 PM   #3
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Of course *** MY *** interpretation might not be the interpretation of the tax hungry CA government.

Later,
Dan
Exactly!

That's why I'm asking about what people have experienced.
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Old 09-08-2014, 01:12 PM   #4
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Exactly!

That's why I'm asking about what people have experienced.
Our understanding is much like yours. The other issue to address if you'll be in California January 1 is property taxes and that determination is much like registration, proving that you are just passing through in spite of the fact you've spent considerable time there.

We're at the same point as you with it in our future. Sorry we haven't experienced it yet to share.
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Old 09-08-2014, 01:19 PM   #5
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I wonder, especially with documented boats this type of crap is not a violation of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution..
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Old 09-08-2014, 01:27 PM   #6
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I wonder, especially with documented boats this type of crap is not a violation of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution..
No, because if the boat is staying in California the majority of the time, it is an intrastate matter. This rule sounds very similar, almost identical, to the Florida rules.

North Carolina began requiring documented boats to be registered in state this past year. Oh, that's not a tax, it's a "fee"... and also makes it much easier for the cities and counties to track people down for property taxes. Most other states are the same, depending on how long you have the boat there.
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Old 09-08-2014, 01:49 PM   #7
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Most other states are the same, depending on how long you have the boat there.
Only significant difference in most states is just the length of time. California, with 120 days plus even the additional chance to stay longer, is at the most lenient end of the scale. Some states are as low as 60 days and many are 90 days. And most do not have a clause that lets you stay longer if it will not be used there the majority of the time.
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Old 09-08-2014, 01:54 PM   #8
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So far I'm pretty happy, as my cruising plans are for the Pacific Coast states.

Washington 6 months.

California 120 days minimum, and more after that depending on how you play it.

Oregon no sales tax

Mexico is a $60 tax for 10 years.

I think this will work.

Our current plan is to winter in the south, summer in Alaska, and transit spring and fall.

We love Alaska summers... June July, and August.

By September the weather is changing. Its 48 at my home right now.
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Old 09-08-2014, 02:06 PM   #9
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So far I'm pretty happy, as my cruising plans are for the Pacific Coast states.

Washington 6 months.

California 120 days minimum, and more after that depending on how you play it.

Oregon no sales tax

Mexico is a $60 tax for 10 years.

I think this will work.

Our current plan is to winter in the south, summer in Alaska, and transit spring and fall.

We love Alaska summers... June July, and August.

By September the weather is changing. Its 48 at my home right now.
The only times we've been questioned it was quickly resolved as we had all the documenting information quickly available.We were seen at a Washington marina we'd been at 3 months earlier and didn't have a permit. But we'd been in Canada and Alaska in between.

Love your plan, Kevin. Our boat is documented and registered in Florida. Just hasn't made it to Florida yet. Too much in between.
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Old 09-08-2014, 02:12 PM   #10
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If a vessel is federally documented, you dont need to be registered in CA. From what I know, if a boat is physically in the state Jan 1, CA will want property tax on it- so be prepared to prove you are have not exceeded the 120 days if/when they come after you..
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Old 09-08-2014, 04:25 PM   #11
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Our understanding is much like yours. The other issue to address if you'll be in California January 1 is property taxes and that determination is much like registration, proving that you are just passing through in spite of the fact you've spent considerable time there.
Property taxes vary widely by county, city, and sub-jurisdictions in California. While all have the basic 1% rate, many/most have various add-ons like bond issues and special assessments. One can save 30% or more by wisely choosing the location the boat is berthed. For instance, in Contra Costa County (Martinez) the property tax rate for my residence is 1.5% while in Solano County (Vallejo) it is 1.16% on the boat as well as the rented berth. (Real estate and boats are taxed at the same rate which varies by location.)
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Old 09-08-2014, 06:41 PM   #12
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January 1st seems to be the biggie in California. Geographically it's a big state with a lot of coastline and the local tax man is from the county as Mark pointed out. As a transient moving around every few weeks I do not see you causing a fuss. If you plant a ficus tree on the dock and chain your boat to it the tax man will get suspicious and ask questions. Some jurisdictions get a bad rap but most of them surprisingly use common sense in my experience.

Have your registration paperwork in order and show them your receipts if questioned that should be more than adequate to prove you're just passing through. If you pass from Alaska to Mexico and back each year it would be tough to envision you being here more than 120 days at a time.
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Old 09-09-2014, 10:28 AM   #13
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If you pass from Alaska to Mexico and back each year it would be tough to envision you being here more than 120 days at a time.
120 days is a long time! It gets shorter quickly if you break up cruising with trips home, or in my case trips back to work 1/2 the time.

I wont retire for another 5 years. Right now I work part time... 2 weeks on 2 weeks off, and take a 6 week vacation generally in the summer.

Semi retired I suppose.
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Old 09-09-2014, 10:50 AM   #14
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Jan 1 is the big date. I was in Long Beach on Jan 1 and got billed for the property tax in LA county on the boat and property tax (mud tax) on the slip by Long Beach. The boat was documented and the home port was San Francisco. Then I got a bill from Solano county, just in case I hadn't been billed somewhere else. I showed the paid bill from LA and it was cleared up. California is great, but it isn't free!
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Old 09-09-2014, 11:10 AM   #15
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I wonder what the laws interpretation of the word "used" as in it will be used upon California waterways seems that if the boat is on the hard, or even tied up in a marina, assuming it's not a live aboard, then it's not being used. And given enough off shore runs, it could be used in international waters, not California waters. Oh well.

States are getting desperate for tax money, and they'll find it easiest with non-residents that are non-voters.
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Old 09-09-2014, 11:41 AM   #16
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Jan 1 each year

The marina that you stay at files a report to the county with all boats currently at their dock Jan 1 that are not temporary guests . Documented boats are not required to register with the state. If you are moving about or anchored out it is difficult for the counties to tax you. They used to have water sheriffs that cruised around checking marinas and anchorages for documented boats that may not have been reported to the county. I don't think they have resources currently to do that, so they rely on the marinas to report vessels in the county. I think if your cruising and moving about it is a non-issue. If your renting a slip on Jan 1 your probably subject to tax. If the boats on the hard and not being used it makes no difference, it's treated as property tax in that county. If your a state resident and have a state registered boat, it is assumed that the boat is stored at your residence unless it's reported elsewhere.
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Old 09-09-2014, 11:53 AM   #17
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Twice we have transited south through California (summer/fall) with PNW registrations. The last time, we stayed more than 120 days in the state. We never gave it much thought nor did any of the other cruisers we met on our way to Mexico. I think the longest we stayed in one spot was 3 weeks.
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Old 09-09-2014, 12:23 PM   #18
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Our vessel is a Canadian Documented & Registered Vessel, currently staying in a San Diego marina. Does the CA tax and Jan. 1st thing apply to us too?
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Old 09-09-2014, 02:40 PM   #19
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Our vessel is a Canadian Documented & Registered Vessel, currently staying in a San Diego marina. Does the CA tax and Jan. 1st thing apply to us too?
Talk to the San Diego County Tax office. We have. The law is that if it will be or is used outside California the majority of the time and will continue to be then you are exempt. But every situation is different.

Ours is San Fran Oct 10 (From WA and OR), LA Nov 15, SD Dec 8. Leave SD for Mexico on Jan 12. So we perfectly fit as transient.

Your situation will depend on how long, where previously, and where you're going. Otherwise you may be charged property tax.

The key wording is where your boat is "regularly and routinely located". From San Diego County's website:

State law requires that boats and airplanes will be assessed on January 1, starting 1997 and for each year thereafter, at the site where they are regularly or routinely located. All boats or airplanes regularly located in San Diego County are assessed here, regardless of where they are registered. ​

Ours is clearly not regularly and routinely located there.
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Old 09-09-2014, 07:01 PM   #20
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Quote:
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I have been reading up on the laws of the Pacific Coast states with regard to taxes as part of planning our next phase of cruising.

Here is a direct copy of what I found on the CA.GOV web site

Vessels previously registered in other states must be registered in California within 120 days of being brought into the state, if it will be used upon California waterways the majority of the time.

I think if I was "marina hopping" say a couple of weeks or so at each marina showing a logical progression through the state, it would be much easier to justify a longer stay as a visitor. What experience have out of state cruisers had?
Just another money grubbing scheme - you know most of your coastal states are broke or about to be. They'll reward boat owners turning in other owners. Greece is trying a similar scheme - cruising permits. Gotta love em for trying.
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