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Old 04-29-2019, 11:31 PM   #1
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Whatís the scoop on coast guard documentation?

We recently bought a boat that’s USCG documented. From what I can tell this means we don’t need to pay for tags and state registration. It also means we don’t need to display any hull numbers or anything except vessel name and port.

What else does it mean? I’m trying to sort out the registration owner change forms and make sense of it all. It seems as though it’s up to the owner to also state register a vessel as well. This seems redundant. My friend thinks it’s cool that police will not be able to board for any reason but is there another advantage to documentation vs state registration?
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Old 04-30-2019, 01:27 AM   #2
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Many if not most states still require you to pay state registration fees/taxes despite the documentation. You often don't have to display the state "AA 1234 BB" registration number on your vessel if documented.

If I remember correctly, as an example if a boat is in Washington waters for 60 days you must register it in Washington. USCG documented vessels are exempt from displaying the WA registration numbers and are exempt from the requirement to retitle it in WA but you are required to possess proof of WA registration during operation.

This has been litigated to death and is a settled issue in the states that have that requirement. From personal experience: Washington for sure. Utah for sure. Oregon for sure. Alaska, yep.

What you avoid is going through the state TITLING process for your boat - you can look at the USCG documentation process as kinda like receiving a federal boat title.

As for the boarding issue, sounds like hooey to me. The USCG has delegated their boarding authority to many state jurisdictions as well as other federal agencies such as the National Park Service. Some state legislatures have similar laws too, at least for the purpose of conducting safety inspections. And for criminal matters, the Carroll Doctrine applies to boats as well as automobiles. How the USA boat is registered or documented has no bearing on this.
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Old 04-30-2019, 05:43 AM   #3
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Exactly!
You get to pay for Fed Title and to renew it each Yr or will be 5 yrs. No difference in state fees in most cases.
As far as boardings... one could argue you may be more likely as locals don't see usual state #s and want to make sure you have current Doc papers. In most states you will need to display the Reg decal.
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Old 04-30-2019, 08:56 AM   #4
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My experience has been if the boat are in the waters of a state for a specific amount of time (varies by state) you have to register the boat in that state and pay sales tax to the state.


I believe Florida is 6 months.
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Old 04-30-2019, 09:22 AM   #5
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It's confusing because word definitions and assumptions get batted around too freely.

Most states will require you to pay the applicable sales/property/excise tax if the boat is kept primarily in that state for a certain duration. That's all about the money.

Some will require you to "register," which may or may not have a fee of its own. Many will require a registration or tax sticker. None can require that a documented boat display registration numbers on the forward half of the vessel.

Example: New Hampshire and Maine share a border. Some New Hampshire boaters have found that keeping the boat in ME and documenting it is cheaper than keeping and registering it in NH. ME does charge an excise tax on documented vessels, but it's often less than, or at least close to, what NH (with a reputation as a "no tax" state) charges for registration.

None of this has anything to do with any jurisdiction's right to board or otherwise enforce any laws. I notice the water cops in our area tend to focus on the small runabouts while the documented boats, being larger, more complex to inspect and less likely to result in violations, are boarded less.

For boat loans, some lenders will require a boat be documented.

Documentation can be done totally on line; no need to go down to the DMV or town hall and wait in line.
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Old 04-30-2019, 09:22 AM   #6
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Add Florida to the list of states that require you to register the boat, even if it is federally documented. You do not display state documentation numbers, but you are supposed to display the yearly decal (though that is not much enforced).


As for boarding, federal documentation makes absolutely no difference at all. State authorities can, and do, board federally documented boats.
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Old 04-30-2019, 10:08 AM   #7
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Ha great. So it turns out to be a disadvantage not an advantage. It makes sense, because it seemed odd to me what he was saying. He says a lot of things. So the hull numbers are optional but are they prohibited? I’d rather run the numbers because I don’t want trouble because I don’t have them.
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Old 04-30-2019, 10:15 AM   #8
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Ha great. So it turns out to be a disadvantage not an advantage. It makes sense, because it seemed odd to me what he was saying. He says a lot of things. So the hull numbers are optional but are they prohibited? Iíd rather run the numbers because I donít want trouble because I donít have them.
Check this out: https://www.dco.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Prevention-Policy-CG-5P/Inspections-Compliance-CG-5PC-/National-Vessel-Documentation-Center/National-Vessel-Documentation-Center-FAQ/

There are some advantages particularly if you move a lot, or take it out of the country. And as someone said you may be required to do it by your insurance underwriter.
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Old 04-30-2019, 10:22 AM   #9
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I've been operating documented boats without hull numbers in the PNW for 15 years. Only have the Washington state registration stickers. I've never been stopped for not having the numbers. The local authorities know all about the documentation process.
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Old 04-30-2019, 10:40 AM   #10
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If you berth your vessel in Washington you are in for an expensive surprise whether documented or not. Suggest you spend some time talking with an onsite knowledgable person.
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Old 04-30-2019, 10:49 AM   #11
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sunchaser, Wa state taxes on our boat are $589 a year. Are there other expenses I'm missing?
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Old 04-30-2019, 10:50 AM   #12
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Sea Word
If you berth your vessel in Washington you are in for an expensive surprise whether documented or not. Suggest you spend some time talking with an onsite knowledgable person.

Yes.


Washington is a great place to be a boater, but we do pay for the privilege.



Your USCG documentation serves as your title, eliminates any state requirement for hull numbers, and makes it simpler for using the boat in Canada. The requirements are that you have name and home port displayed and have the vessel identification number permanently inscribed/mounted on the vessel. It is a relatively cheap and easy $36 fee.



You still need to comply with state registration laws, so in Washington you pay a yearly registration fee exactly like you do on your car. Part of that fee is an excise tax. That makes boat registration expensive in WA. While you don't need exterior hull numbers, you still have to display a WA registration sticker.


You can be boarded by local LEOs regardless of your documentation status for any number of legal reasons.
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Old 04-30-2019, 11:27 AM   #13
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Ha great. So it turns out to be a disadvantage not an advantage. It makes sense, because it seemed odd to me what he was saying. He says a lot of things. So the hull numbers are optional but are they prohibited? Iíd rather run the numbers because I donít want trouble because I donít have them.
Prohibited on a documented boat.
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Old 04-30-2019, 11:28 AM   #14
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sunchaser, Wa state taxes on our boat are $589 a year. Are there other expenses I'm missing?
Sales or use tax at time of purchase.
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Old 04-30-2019, 11:48 AM   #15
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sunchaser, Wa state taxes on our boat are $589 a year. Are there other expenses I'm missing?

There are a number of fees associated with your registration. The biggest is an excise tax that is based on the value of your boat as calculated by the state. Therefore the biggest factor determining how much you pay is the value of the boat. This year it is going to cost me $1,254 to register my 9 year old 43' boat. Of that, $1,228.50 is excise tax based on its value.
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Old 04-30-2019, 12:07 PM   #16
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I would inquire if there is an option to register as an antique and if there is, do you qualify. Any boat over 30 years is only $4.00 a year in Florida, other states may have similar rules.
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Old 04-30-2019, 12:10 PM   #17
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Sales or use tax at time of purchase.
Unless the vessel is an asset of an LLC that you bought. Then there is no sales or use tax since the boat ownership hasnít changed.
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Old 04-30-2019, 01:03 PM   #18
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Sales or use tax at time of purchase.
And that sales/use tax is around 9 % of the price you paid. % differs from one location to another. My understanding of the regs is that the % is based on location of purchase, but some DOL folks seem to think it it based on where you keep the boat. Half a % can make quite a difference.
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Old 04-30-2019, 01:51 PM   #19
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Ha great. So it turns out to be a disadvantage not an advantage. It makes sense, because it seemed odd to me what he was saying. He says a lot of things. So the hull numbers are optional but are they prohibited? Iíd rather run the numbers because I donít want trouble because I donít have them.
I don't see the disadvantage.

The numbers on the forward half of the boat are not optional. They're either required (state registration) or prohibited (documentation.)
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Old 04-30-2019, 02:52 PM   #20
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The $589 we pay is the total amount for 1 year. It goes down a little every year.
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