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Boats / Vessels 

Why are Boats/Vessels Taxed?

The California Constitution and the Revenue and Taxation Code state that all property is taxable (including boats and other vessels such as jet skis) unless it is specifically exempt by law.

Boat owners pay a registration fee to the Department of Motor Vehicles, but the personal property taxes are paid to the county where the boat is moored or located. If you own a boat in the County of Riverside on lien date (January 1 at 12:01 a.m.), you must pay the taxes on it.

Boat taxes are assessed on the unsecured tax roll. The tax bills are mailed at the end of June and payment is due by August 31 of that year.

Determining the Situs of Boat/Vessel

Section 14 of the California Constitution states, "All property taxed by the local government shall be assessed in the county, city, and district in which it is situated." Revenue and Taxation Code Section 1141 further provides that "boats shall be assessed where they are habitually moored when not in use". Domicile of the owner is the usual tax situs. However, proof that the boat is habitually stored or moored elsewhere when not in use overrides that presumption.

Registration information on boats comes directly from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Boats should be registered at the situs at which they are moored, and this will determine the taxing jurisdiction.

Proof of situs other than DMV registration of domicile could include receipts of docking fees (at January 1 and current), proof of registration in another county or state, and/or a copy of an uncancelled current tax bill from another county for said boat.

Notification of Assessment

Upon discovery of your boat/vessel, the Assessor will mail you a "Notice of Vessel Assessment". This notice will provide you with the fair market value which will be enrolled for the upcoming lien date and general information regarding the assessment of your vessel.

After the initial enrollment year, your notice of assessment will likely be your unsecured tax bill.

Valuation

A boat is taxed at the same tax rate applicable for the area in which it is moored. The boat's taxable value is based on the purchase date, purchase amount, and depreciation (if applicable). Marine market value guides are also used as a valuation source. If marine market value guides are used to support a lower valuation, they must be within 90 days of lien date (January 1). Proof of less than average condition (beyond normal wear) needs to be submitted and accepted before a decrease in value is allowed. Proof could include pictures of the vessel, repair bills, or other documentation of damage.

Boats or vessels with a value of less than $5,000 are not assessed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I have to pay the full tax if I sell my boat after the January 1 lien date?

A: Yes. Unsecured property taxes are not prorated by the Tax Collector's Office. Any activity occurring after the lien date only affects the following year.

Q: Should I notify the Assessor's office if I sell my boat?

A: Yes. This information will help prevent you from receiving a tax bill on property you no longer own during the next Roll year. However, you should fill out a Release of Liability form with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Q: Why do I have to pay taxes on my boat, but my neighbor / friend / relative doesn't?

A: If a boat / vessel is located or moored in Riverside County, it is subject to assessment. If you know someone who owns a boat / vessel, and it is not being assessed, feel free to contact our office and report the information to us.

Q: My boat is outside the (county/state/country).

A: California registration indicates the boat is kept in California. If it is in the county more than 6 months, it is taxable here.

Q: Why do I have to pay taxes on my boat to you and the DMV?

A: DMV collects a registration fee for the boat. The county Assessor determines boat values, upon which the personal property taxes are based.

Q: Why do I have to pay taxes on my jet ski?

A: In California all property is taxable unless specifically exempt by law. (R&T 201)