Vessel taxes and registration in the state of Florida are an ongoing topics on SSECN (see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=106014) and the comments below offer more good information about keeping your boat legal in regards to taxes and registration. The link for applying for the Sojourner Permit mentioned below is: http://www.leetc.com/vehiclevessel.asp?page_id=vesselsojourner
They only allow you to be there 90 days, or else you will have to register the boat and pay Florida sales tax. Florida has reciprocal agreements with other states so proving you paid sales tax in another state will give you credit in FL for that payment.
We just registered our boat in FL (in order to stay longer than 90 days. Registration cost us just under $200. FL does not tryto collect sales tax so long as the boat did not enter Florida waters for at least six months after you purchased it.
If you want to stay in the state more than 90 days consecutively (or 183 days per year) you may apply for a Sojourner Permit. This will extend the visiting rights for a registered vessel for an additional 60 days, and it gives a documented vessel an additional year.
Here is where it gets complicated. The Sojourner Permit is issued by the county. It is a state wide permit but the county issues it. This has lead to a great deal of confusion because many county employees do not know about it. And there are a variety of different interpretations. If you are going to be in Florida for over 90 days you would be wise to educate yourself in advance and get the permit form on line (HSMV 87244 “Application to Register Non Titled Vessels”). Fill it out and take it to the county tax office and be prepared to educate the clerk when you arrive.
Following up on earlier comments — we had no state registration whatsoever (it’s a documented boat) until we came to FL. It is not required by our state of domicile (SD), and we deliberately chose a DE hailing port for the boat and a DE registration for our tender to avoid any “where’s your state sicker” questions — DE does not require or issue registration stickers on documented vessels. (And, yes, I know it matters not one whit what hailing port is chosen for a documented vessel, but there are, apparently, some LEOs who choose to remain blissfully unaware of this fact).
The permit of which you speak generates a good deal of confusion, as you’ve noted. You can only get one if you already have a registration from another state (yes, even if your boat is federally documented). Also, many tax collectors know nothing about it. See this discussion on the SSECN: http://cruisersnet.net/florida-sojourners-permit-reprise/
In our case, we’d first need to persuade DE to issue us a registration sticker, which is uncommon for documented vessels and therefore can not be done with just a few mouse clicks (unlike, for example, our tender). That sticker would cost us about the same $200 annually as the FL registration. Then we’d need to apply for the sojourner permit, which would only give us 11 months.
For the same $200 we now have a regular FL sticker and we can come and go to FL as we please. Also, we have a real sticker to show any other state who wants to play the “show me your sticker” game. We did not have to pay FL sales tax on the boat, although, to be fair, we had the boat for more than a year before we first arrived in FL waters.
BTW, we did all this at the Martin County Tax Collector in Stuart, and the person who handles boats there was well-versed in the intricacies of FL boat registrations. She collected six months’ worth of marina and fuel receipts from us to establish that the boat had remained outside FL for a full six months after purchase. If you plan to go the same route, make sure you have such documentation — your log book alone will not suffice. We established this practice when we bought the boat, so that we would always have documentation for any state officials that we had not overstayed our welcome in their waters. We also get and keep pump-out receipts for the same reason. FWIW and YMMV.
Not to add to the confused state of this topic, but there’s a big distinction that needs to be drawn regarding the type of tax being discussed. This applies to all major purchases (cars, trucks, boats, etc). There is a _sales_ tax which is paid to the state at the time of purchase (if the state has a sales tax – some don’t).
There is a _USE_ TAX (pronounced “yoose”) which is paid to the state where the item is being used (if a state has a sales tax, they’ll most likely also have a USE tax). The purpose of this tax is to equalize the tax consequences for someone who goes to a no-tax or low-tax state to purchase a high-priced item, thereby _attempting_ to avoid the state sales tax.
Florida (and many other states), for example, has both a sales and a use tax. The discussion on this thread regarding taxes generally is dealing with the use tax, not the sales tax.
There are a number of exemptions to paying the use tax. In Florida, owning the property and keeping it out of the state for more than six months will result in no use tax liability. There are other exemptions as well, including a credit for sales tax paid in another state as well as for a use tax paid in another state.
Your friendly local tax collector can probably help sort things out (as long as their familiar with their own state’s tax rules).
Federal documentation of a boat doesn’t affect the tax situation one way or the other; that’s been the case since the 1950s.
Bob McLeran and Judy Young
Re “They only allow you to be there 90 days, or else you will have to register the boat and pay Florida sales tax” exactly what “SALE” took place? You already owned the boat when you entered Florida, so I don’t see what sale took place when you entered Florida waters.
None, but they want to make sure you paid sales tax somewhere. I’ve never seen the “fairness” in this, but Texas did the same thing when the started requiring Documented boats to register. If you had owned the boat less than 4 years and kept it in Texas over 90 days you had to pay Texas sales tax if you had not paid it elsewhere, no matter where or when you bought the boat.
Texas, at least gave us the 4 year “loophole”. Not sure Fla has a time limit on ownership. Maybe someone on the list can tell us. With the 4 year rule in Texas, you can imagine all the dodging that was going on for those of us folks that had owned our boats just under the 4 year limit. Lets just say I got to do a couple of lovely cruises to Lake Charles, La and bought fuel while I was there.
Here’s a Florida interesting fact: when your boat becomes 30 years old the state registration fee goes way down. Mine was $7.00 this year. It was $5.26 last year.
The Motor Vehicle people will not offer this information and you need to remind them and fill in a simple form to get it but it saved me more than $200.00 a year.
This may happen in other states as well; worth checking into.
We purchased our boat in 2009 in Maryland and paid the sales tax plus got a 90 day Maryland registration recommends by the dealer. Immediately took it to Florida where we registered it and it has been ever since.
Two times since then New York State, where we live, has contacted us for prove that we paid the sales tax and said, if you ever bring the boat into NY waters, or pass through NY waters, we must pay the difference between Maryland and the higher NY sales tax.
Chas & Bev
Interesting idea about saving marina and fuel receipts for six months, but for me on a sailboat with large tankage that might be nothing more than a couple of fuel receipts, if that. I almost never stay in a marina. Seems like it might be hard to prove a negative like you have never been someplace. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Bottom line is you were dealing with an ornery official who was probably making the rules up to suit their own agenda. Also, as some have pointed out, never rely on any official to actually know the laws they are supposed to be enforcing. Read up on the statutes in play and be prepared to bring copies of them to show. I have encountered numerous cases of bureaucracy not knowing their own rules.