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Old 12-21-2015, 02:35 PM   #1
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Documented SC Boats in FL

I would appreciate any experiences or insights from South Carolina documented boat owners who have been through the “Show me your papers” routine in Florida. SC, as I have just confirmed with them by phone, is one of the few remaining states that has a strictly hands off policy on federally documented vessels. I just called them, said we bought the boat in another state and brought it into SC, and asked if there was anything we needed to do like paying sales or use tax. The rep said, “No, the Coast Guard takes care of everything for your boat. You don’t have to notify us of anything.” Good enough.

The rub is the reported requirement of Florida that all documented vessels have a state registration. I went through this with my sailboat when I as from Maine that also did not register or issue numbers to documented vessels. I confirmed at that time, with the help of BoatUS, that a documented vessel that did not have a state registration was not covered by the FL 90 day grace period, was not eligible for the Sojourner’s Permit, and could be fined immediately upon entering Florida at the discretion of the FWC boarding officer. I’m curious what other SC (or ME) boater’s actual experience has been in boarding's.

I solved the ME problem by having BoatUS get me in touch with someone high enough up the food chain in ME to make the decision that there was no reason they shouldn’t take my money and issue me a state registration as most states will do for documented vessels. However, it appears to be an absolute in the SC system that you can not state register without surrendering your federal documentation.

My interpretation, and I believe a logical legal argument, would be that we are in full compliance with SC law as that state considers a COD to be the equivalent of a state registration as far as SC is concerned. The real issue in these things, however, is what the individual officer boarding your boat thinks. I’ve been told that FL just wants to be sure all boat are in compliance with the laws of their home state and not using documentation to dodge FL taxes and fees. We are in compliance with SC’s requirements so that should be good enough for them. But, what I’m really wondering is how much time I might be spending in the hot sun trying to explain all this to a FWC officer.

Sharp eyes may note that our residence is now in New York state. Normally, that is where we would register and it would be a simple matter. However, my understanding is that a state registration must be in the state of principle use and we have no plans at this point to take the boat, which we intend to be our winter home, to New York. We have family in SC and Beaufort is our favorite area so we expect the boat to spend most of its time in SC waters.
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Old 12-21-2015, 03:00 PM   #2
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When we brought Hobo from Alaska to Florida, we had similar concerns. We were told twice, that as long as we had satisfied the taxing jurisdiction of where we originally came from (AK), we owed no tax in Florida. The boat wasn't bought to avoid sales tax in FL and had been away from FL for more that 90 days.

When we registered Hobo, we had Arts Tags and Title, Fort Lauterdale, handle the initial registration. We gave them copies of our vessel doc (AK) and our drivers licenses (WA). We only paid the registration fee plus $45 for Art's. Our annual renewal goes to our Friday Harbor address.

If in doubt, I'd call Art's and ask for Valerie. They do this for a living and register a lot of boats. (954) 463-1050
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Old 12-21-2015, 03:30 PM   #3
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Here's the deal as I know it. I have had two boats documented with a SC hailing port. The SC max sales tax on boats was $300.00. The boats were bought in Florida with a 90 day cruise permit. No sales tax paid. SC does not state register documented vessels. However, they happily accepted the state max sales tax on each vessel. As long as I was not living in Florida, and the vessel was out of the state for more than 6 months, I could go back to Florida. Then register the boat in Florida with no tax due.

This is how it worked for me. YMMV.
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Old 12-21-2015, 04:50 PM   #4
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I just called them, said we bought the boat in another state and brought it into SC, and asked if there was anything we needed to do like paying sales or use tax. The rep said, “No, the Coast Guard takes care of everything for your boat. You don’t have to notify us of anything.” Good enough.
No, not good enough. Who did you talk to that gave you that information? South Carolina has a sales tax (capped at $300) and has local property taxes on boats. You don't have to pay for registration or title, but the tax man wants his money.

SCDNR - Boating Registration

Florida's main interest is that you are not going to be bringing the boat in there and avoiding taxes. So you have to come up with something that shows you are tax kosher.
First year we went down there, I didn't have any registration or had paid sales tax (due to where and way boat was boat and then homeported MD and NC respectively) but then again I wasn't pulled over. By the next year, I had registered the boat in Rhode Island which was the best estimate of "principal place of use" since we were cruising full time. Big reg fee, but no sales tax. We did get charged property tax from Westport Mass where the boat was moored for a couple of months (they didn't care if it was an RI boat, which is not uncommon since Westport is right on the border). So when we got back down to Florida, we had no issues when asked from then on.

You can have any old place as a hailing port, what drives tax and reg issues is place of principal (or in Mass, some use). That's only fair as that's where you are using state and local services the most.
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Old 12-21-2015, 05:49 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Roger Long View Post
I would appreciate any experiences or insights from South Carolina documented boat owners who have been through the “Show me your papers” routine in Florida. SC, as I have just confirmed with them by phone, is one of the few remaining states that has a strictly hands off policy on federally documented vessels. I just called them, said we bought the boat in another state and brought it into SC, and asked if there was anything we needed to do like paying sales or use tax. The rep said, “No, the Coast Guard takes care of everything for your boat. You don’t have to notify us of anything.” Good enough.

The rub is the reported requirement of Florida that all documented vessels have a state registration. I went through this with my sailboat when I as from Maine that also did not register or issue numbers to documented vessels. I confirmed at that time, with the help of BoatUS, that a documented vessel that did not have a state registration was not covered by the FL 90 day grace period, was not eligible for the Sojourner’s Permit, and could be fined immediately upon entering Florida at the discretion of the FWC boarding officer. I’m curious what other SC (or ME) boater’s actual experience has been in boarding's.

I solved the ME problem by having BoatUS get me in touch with someone high enough up the food chain in ME to make the decision that there was no reason they shouldn’t take my money and issue me a state registration as most states will do for documented vessels. However, it appears to be an absolute in the SC system that you can not state register without surrendering your federal documentation.

My interpretation, and I believe a logical legal argument, would be that we are in full compliance with SC law as that state considers a COD to be the equivalent of a state registration as far as SC is concerned. The real issue in these things, however, is what the individual officer boarding your boat thinks. I’ve been told that FL just wants to be sure all boat are in compliance with the laws of their home state and not using documentation to dodge FL taxes and fees. We are in compliance with SC’s requirements so that should be good enough for them. But, what I’m really wondering is how much time I might be spending in the hot sun trying to explain all this to a FWC officer.

Sharp eyes may note that our residence is now in New York state. Normally, that is where we would register and it would be a simple matter. However, my understanding is that a state registration must be in the state of principle use and we have no plans at this point to take the boat, which we intend to be our winter home, to New York. We have family in SC and Beaufort is our favorite area so we expect the boat to spend most of its time in SC waters.
The answers seem to be all over the place so I'm not sure I understand the question, but this is what I think you are asking about (not about taxes):

FL requires a boat to be state registered in some state even if it is documented. One would think Federal Documentation would allow you to operate a boat in any state but apparently that is not the case. South Carolina does not and will not issue a state registration to a Federally Documented boat.

This means that you cannot technically operate your documented boat in FL because it has no state registration.

I've been to FL in my boat twice for a month or so each time. The first time I did not know about this "glitch". The second time I did know but went anyway.

I don't think lawmakers typically know or care about boaters and sometimes write laws that don't make good sense. Other than my little soap box, I can't tell you what to do except possibly contact the authorities in FL and ask them what to do. Get your answer in writing.
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Old 12-21-2015, 06:05 PM   #6
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Neither time did Florida ask for proof of sales tax paid. I did have to show that I was not a Florida resident.(drivers license), and was ready to prove that the boat was in another state for more than 6 months. It took about an hour in each case to get the Florida registration. Just paid Florida for another 2 years for my boat, dinghy, and dinghy trailer.
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Old 12-21-2015, 07:03 PM   #7
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No, not good enough. Who did you talk to that gave you that information?

SCDNR - Boating Registration
I spoke to the person at the inquiry number on the form you included a link to. I said I wanted to pay any sales tax or fees due. She said there was nothing to pay since we bought the boat in another state.


Read the form again. I think the operative words are "If you wish to register.."

It says very clearly that documented vessels are exempt from registration.

I do know about the personal property tax but it is administered by the counties. I presume we will hear from them if we ever settle in a particular county. I'm not sure how it is handled if we are moving around as much as we intend but the lady at the registration office didn't consider it her concern.
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Old 12-21-2015, 07:16 PM   #8
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This means that you cannot technically operate your documented boat in FL because it has no state registration.
This is my understanding, unless you accept the interpretation that SC has made Federal Documentation a de facto form of state registration.

My specific question is really whether FL FWC officer are keeping an eye out for SC and ME vessels and subjecting them to special scrutiny. This was the case for a while in Maine where tax officers discovered they could get out of their cubicles and eat taxpayer funded lobster rolls while taking pictures of boats with RI in the hailing port. They would then look them up in the documented vessels database and send out letters saying that use tax had to be paid on the boat unless the owner could produce receipts showing where the boat had been for the entire period of current ownership up to ten years. This wasn't in the laws or regulations and was clearly an attempt to panic people into paying taxes they didn't owe. They tried the same thing with airplanes and it led to a boycott by AOPA. They also tried it with foreign vessels and chased enough international mega yachts out of the state that there were substantial marina layoffs.

We're only planning to visit FL for periods of less than 90 days. I don't expect any problems but would like to know if anyone has heard of any.
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Old 12-21-2015, 07:34 PM   #9
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I spoke to the person at the inquiry number on the form you included a link to. I said I wanted to pay any sales tax or fees due. She said there was nothing to pay since we bought the boat in another state.


Read the form again. I think the operative words are "If you wish to register.."

It says very clearly that documented vessels are exempt from registration.

I do know about the personal property tax but it is administered by the counties. I presume we will hear from them if we ever settle in a particular county. I'm not sure how it is handled if we are moving around as much as we intend but the lady at the registration office didn't consider it her concern.
Well, good luck to you. I know plenty of people with SC boats. I think you and your friend on the phone were confusing registration and title fees with taxes. Are you paying property taxes?
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Old 12-21-2015, 07:34 PM   #10
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We operated out documented, MA-home port and tax paid boat in FL without issue, but I was prepared to show the law that says MA (like ME and SC) does not require documented boats to be registered, and that I was in full compliance in MA.
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Old 12-21-2015, 07:36 PM   #11
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[QUOTE=Moonstruck;397677]Neither time did Florida ask for proof of sales tax paid. I/QUOTE]

Both times the officer I interacted did. Now to be clear I was there as a seasonal transient.
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Old 12-21-2015, 08:10 PM   #12
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[QUOTE=caltexflanc;397703]
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Neither time did Florida ask for proof of sales tax paid. I/QUOTE]

Both times the officer I interacted did. Now to be clear I was there as a seasonal transient.
Like I said, I can only relate my experiences.

I would probably be more worried about being stopped by the local Sheriffs' marine patrols that the FL Marine Police. That goes especially for Volusia County (Daytona Beach). The local LEOs are known to be on the water.

The fee for a year to register my boat, dinghy, and dinghy trailer in Florida is about $200.00/yr. Cheap peace of mind in my opinion. I keep it paid up even when we take the boat home to SC. The doc sticker on my port side window has kept me from being stopped many a time. The LEOs will pass close by the port side looking for the right color sticker. When they see it they just keep going. When they are stopped on the side of the channel I will see them scanning with binoculars looking for the sticker.
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Old 12-22-2015, 08:16 AM   #13
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There appears to have been a change on the FL Boat Registration website. It's been a few years now since I looked so perhaps I should re-checked before posting. It now says in the FAQ:

Quote:
I will be vacationing in Florida this summer. Do I need to register my vessel there? Florida recognizes valid registration certificates and numbers issued to visiting boaters for a period of 90 days. An owner who intends to use his vessel in Florida longer than 90 days must register it with a county tax collector. However, he may retain the out-of-state registration number if he plans to return to his home state within a reasonable period of time.
The word "state" no longer appears. My vessel has a valid number and registration certificate issued by the Federal Government. There is nothing in the FAQ about documented vessels.

We have no plans to spend more than 90 days in FL so I think we are good to go. I will print both the SC registration website and the FL registration FAQ and, in case of boarding, ask the officer to show me where it says I can't cruise in the state for a period up to 90 days.
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Old 12-22-2015, 11:15 AM   #14
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All depends on what day, what person and what county tax office you go to in Florida to get a Documented vessel registered in Florida -
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Old 12-22-2015, 11:39 AM   #15
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There appears to have been a change on the FL Boat Registration website. It's been a few years now since I looked so perhaps I should re-checked before posting. It now says in the FAQ:


The word "state" no longer appears. My vessel has a valid number and registration certificate issued by the Federal Government. There is nothing in the FAQ about documented vessels.

We have no plans to spend more than 90 days in FL so I think we are good to go. I will print both the SC registration website and the FL registration FAQ and, in case of boarding, ask the officer to show me where it says I can't cruise in the state for a period up to 90 days.
That change appears to be good news for us SC boaters. Of course it's still a bit vague and might leave it up to us to prove we are in the right and not up to them to prove we are wrong.

As close as SC is to FL, there must be hundreds of SC boats visiting FL each year, many of the documented, not registered. Maybe this situation came up and that's why the wording was changed.

I wonder what they do to boats from other countries?
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Old 12-22-2015, 11:57 AM   #16
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Of course it's still a bit vague and might leave it up to us to prove we are in the right and not up to them to prove we are wrong.
The key point in this is that SC considers our Federal Documentation to be a valid state number and registration. It's not up to FL to determine SC law. I don't see much wiggle room in unless FL says very explicitly that Federal Documentation is not recognized for the 90 day period. This question has certainly been asked a lot and I think it would have shown up in the FL FAQ if it were true.
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Old 12-22-2015, 02:48 PM   #17
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Florida wants to encourage boaters to come here, spend money in our marinas, boatyards, restaurants and pay taxes on services. We do not have an income tax here and we like how non residents help pay our taxes. Tourism is big business. I know of boats that have come to Florida for the winter for years, stay longer than 90 days and not have a problem. But they do want you to register if you stay more then 90 days and the price is reasonable. How long you have owned your boat makes a difference to Florida taxing authorities however. If you have owned the boat for less than 180 days then come to Florida for more than 90 days they may think that you should pay Florida sales AND USE tax.
My contacts at the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) who specialize in boats says don't trust information obtained over the phone from a DOR agent, as they may know about cars and trucks but not boats. Look at the latest website for information.
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Old 01-01-2016, 06:46 AM   #18
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After reading all of the above, I decided to visit the local tax office here in Crystal River Florida.


I have never paid sales tax and the boat has no state registration (not required in Texas) and the boat is documented. I took the original Coast guard Document, a completed

APPLICATION TO REGISTER NON-TITLED VESSELS - Form 87244


and my out of state drivers license. They photo copied the license and CG document, gave me a registration sticker good to March 2017 (3 months not required + 12 months), charged me $260 and I was out of there in 10 minutes. No questions, no hassle and peace of mind for a year.
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Old 01-01-2016, 07:02 AM   #19
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Documented SC Boats in FL

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After reading all of the above, I decided to visit the local tax office here in Crystal River Florida.


I have never paid sales tax and the boat has no state registration (not required in Texas) and the boat is documented. I took the original Coast guard Document, a completed

APPLICATION TO REGISTER NON-TITLED VESSELS - Form 87244


and my out of state drivers license. They photo copied the license and CG document, gave me a registration sticker good to March 2017 (3 months not required + 12 months), charged me $260 and I was out of there in 10 minutes. No questions, no hassle and peace of mind for a year.

Blurb from Tx Parks & Wildlife website.
https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/boat...g_and_selling/

Exempted vessels

USCG Documented vessels are exempt from titling with the State.
USCG Documented vessels require State registration and proof of current USCG documentation.

Just Saying.... And sorry for the bad news.
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Old 01-01-2016, 07:05 AM   #20
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Documented SC Boats in FL

Double posted in error...
Sorry moderator....
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