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Letters


Compelling Argument for Sales and Use Tax Reduction in Washington


Recent articles in national boating magazines have highlighted the substantial tax concessions other states have granted to boaters: In Maine, for example, the sales tax rate was reduced from (an already comparatively low) 5% to 2%. In Florida, the sales tax rate is 6%, but is capped at $18,000, so the buyer of any boat costing more than $300,000 benefits. Rhode Island waives both sales taxes and personal-property taxes on boats purchased or registered there. In South Carolina, the maximum sales tax on boats sold is $300. In Virginia, the sales tax rate on boats is 2%, and is capped at $2000 total. Oregon, of course, has NO sales tax on boat purchases, and California -- with possible changes pending -- has offered substantial tax savings for off-shore deliveries and out-of-state purchases. I have not done a comparative analysis, but I suspect these other states are in no better shape financially (and some, like California, are in substantially worse shape) than Washington, yet they have found it within their means politically to offer these tax concessions. Excessive taxes ultimately result in diminishing returns; buyers, whenever possible, will take their business elsewhere. To quote a statement in BoatUS Magazine (Oct/Nov 2010): “According to the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which pushed for passage (of the $18,000 sales tax cap), the state has been losing boat sales and service revenue to other states and to foreign countries that offer more favorable sales tax treatment. It projects tax collections of $18.7 million per year as opposed to the $1.5 million the state took in before the change.” I believe Washington ranks third (behind Florida and California) in the total number of boat registrations. The Washington marine industry -- from boat building and sales to maintenance and moorage -- is a major component of the state’s economy, providing thousands of jobs benefiting many communities. The current economic slump has severely impacted the state’s marine industry, especially boat-building,witness the closure of Northern Marine, Pacific Mariner, Nordic Tugs, et al. (Editor’s note: Nordic Tugs has just resumed business) and boat sales (both new and used) with concurrent loss of jobs and revenues. My question is, why hasn’t this industry organized and lobbied Olympia successfully, as has obviously been done so effectively in other states, to benefit the industry as a whole and the boating community generally?


As demonstrated by positive legislative action taken in other boating states, there is a compelling argument for sales and use tax reduction in Washington. Surely there is capable leadership within a collective marine industry organization endorsed and supported by builders, sales agents, brokers, boatyards, marinas, vendors and


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