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It's Sunday August 1, 2021

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Death, Taxes, and Registration
Just the first two used to be inevitable
July 2021

L
ast month, I wrote about proof of ownership, either documentation or titling. The obvious follow-on for this month is registration. Registration is not proof of ownership.

Registration is identification, control, and harvesting money. Read on.

Do I have to register my boat in North Carolina?
john rahm
Captain John Rahm
All motorized vessels used on public waters, including vessels which use an electric trolling motor, must be registered. This requirement also includes jet skis. All US Coast Guard Documented Vessels operating in North Carolina for over 90 consecutive days must be registered. This is a not-so-recent change.

In 2013, our State Senator, Norman Sanderson, co-sponsored Senate Bill number 58 which imposed the state registration requirement on documented vessels. Previous to Senator Norm’s initiative, documented North Carolina vessels were exempt from registration. The public outrage was enough for our senator to vote “no” on the bill he sponsored (unusual). The bill passed regardless.

So, now we have mandatory registration.

Registration has joined the list of the inevitable.

Anyway, all sailboats used on public waters must be registered if longer than 14 feet at the load waterline. If a vessel registered in another state is brought in to North Carolina for over 90 consecutive days, the registration must be transferred to North Carolina. Active duty military, temporarily stationed in North Carolina, who have a valid out of state registration for their vessel are exempt from this requirement. All North Carolina titled vessels must be registered.

Maybe not?
Vessels that are unused and kept on dry land do not need registration in North Carolina. Rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and rafts moved only by oars, paddles, or the current do not need registration in North Carolina. A vessel used only on a private pond does not need registration in North Carolina. Ship’s lifeboats or dinghies do not need to be registered if they are used only for emergency lifeboat purposes.

However, if they are motorized and used for non-emergency purposes, they do require registration.

What does registration cost?
Cost varies by length and title/documentation. One-year registration for a vessel less than 26 feet is $33. Twenty-six feet and above is $53. Three year registration is $93 and $153 respectively, saving $6 by registering for 3 years.

Other States?
State requirements for registration are all different. Here is the short version:

• Maine 60 consecutive days
Connecticut More than 60 days total
• Rhode Island More than 90 days total
• New York 90 consecutive days
• Pennsylvania Not required when temporarily operating on PA waters (fuzzy)
• New Jersey Not required if registered in another state and operating in NJ less than 180 days per year
• Delaware Not required if documented or registered in another state and in Delaware waters for < 60 days total
• Maryland It’s tricky

If your vessel was purchased in Maryland and will use Maryland waters a majority of the calendar year, you are liable for vessel excise tax and must register the vessel within 30 days of purchase to avoid assessment of penalty and interest.

If your vessel was purchased elsewhere or previously registered in another jurisdiction, is now in Maryland waters and will use Maryland waters more than any other single jurisdiction during the calendar year, you are liable for vessel excise tax and must register the vessel within 30 days of entering Maryland waters.

If your vessel is duly registered in another jurisdiction but remains in Maryland waters more than 90 days in a calendar year, you may be liable for vessel excise tax – unless you can prove principal use in another jurisdiction.

Virginia I could not figure it out. Call 866-721-6911 for more info.
South Carolina Not required if documented (Hooray)
• Georgia 60 days total
• Florida 90 consecutive days

Those Nasty Numbers
Documented vessels are not required to display registration numbers on their hulls. Only registration stickers are required to be affixed.

Until recently, only one sticker was required on the starboard side bow. Now the state is in the process of requiring two stickers, one for each side. This will help law enforcement identify and fine the offenders.

If you walk the docks of area marinas, you may notice that about half the sailboats don’t have registration stickers. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are not registered. More than a few captains have expressed that they will pay for the sticker, but don’t want it “uglying up” their boat.

The bow of four vessels. There are stickers with a year - 22 or 23 - on three of them.
Four vessels. Only three display the registration sticker.
Personal Property Taxes
Personal property tax has nothing to do with federal documentation, state titling or state registration. However, a few words are probably in order.

Vessels, tenders and outboard motors are taxed as personal property by Pamlico County and the town of Oriental. The county rate is 0.6250 of 1% of the tax value. Town rates vary by municipality. The rate for Oriental is 0.22. There is also a 3 cent fire tax. Added together, the rate of a boat in Oriental would be .8750 of 1%. For a vessel valued at $100,000, the annual taxes would be $875. (Disclaimer: public school graduate.)

The Interesting Part
These taxes are not prorated. Whoever owns the vessel on the 1st of January owes all the taxes.

Yes, selling your boat on the 2nd of January still incurs taxes for the entire year.

Each year prior to January 15, dock masters are required by law to submit a list of every vessel moored in their marina to the Pamlico County tax office. These lists are a tool used by the tax office. The owner of the boat is required to ensure the boat is listed with the tax office by the 31st of January.

I say again, it is the owner’s responsibility to make sure their boat is properly listed. The Pamlico County tax office uses BucBoat for valuations. They will also accept a bill of sale for valuations.

The public servants in Pamlico County tax office are extremely helpful. Ms. Leslie and Ms. Janice answer all the questions and make sure everyone contributes legally and fairly. Distasteful as taxes are, you will have a good experience when dealing with the tax office.

So, back to the question: death, taxes, and registration inevitable? I say yes, without doubt.

I trust this was helpful.

Fair Winds, Captain John Rahm


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Captain's Blog on TownDock.net is all about making your time on the water enjoyable. Captain John Rahm teaches sailing and boat handling at Third Wave Sailing.