Governor goes after boat-tax exemption
Holden to introduce legislation that would end sales-tax loophole for big boats
By Ceil Abbott
JEFFERSON CITY -- In an attempt to close what he calls corporate-tax loopholes Governor Bob Holden is targeting a sales-tax exemp-tion that lake area state Senator Larry Rohrbach has been trying to deep six for nearly a decade.
The loophole in the state's tax law gives purchasers of certain large boats the chance to avoid paying sales tax if the the craft is registered with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Holden announced his intention to recommend passage of legislation designed to do away with the boat-tax exemption as part of his fiscal 2004 budget recommen-dations.
The state's fiscal year 2004 will run from July 1, 2003 - June 30, 2004. Holden will make his budget recom-mendations when the 2003 spring legislative session opens shortly after the first of the year.
During each of his eight years in the Senate, Rohrbach, R-California, has introduced a similar big boat bill at the start of each session. He has never been successful in getting it passed.
Under current statutes, buyers of boats over 25 feet in length and five tons displacement can circumvent the state's sales-tax laws if they register the vessel with the U.S. Coast Guard.
The owners can keep the boat for their personal use so long as they agree to lend it to the Coast Guard if Missouri waterways are attacked.
Rohrbach says he is pleased the governor also wants to see the law changed, but unlike Holden, his concern has always been with the amount of tax revenue that local governments, such as cities and counties, are losing.
"Looking at the overall picture, the state won't gain that much if the law is changed, but cities and counties will benefit enormously," Rohrbach said.
Rohrbach said a clause in the statute makes it necessary for purchasers of large boats to pay a set fee to the Missouri Department of Revenue in lieu of the standard sales tax. That fee was doubled a few years ago as a result of Rohrbach's efforts.
Because of that in-lieu-of clause, Rohrbach says taking away the sales tax exemption would affect cities and counties more than the state.
"They (large boat purchasers) already pay the in-lieu-of money so while there would be some net gain for the state, the biggest gain would be to local governments who right now get nothing at all," Rohrbach said.
Rohrbach estimates that doing away with the exemption would garner an additional annual income of $2,292,450 for the state, $1,432,200 for public school districts, $322,000 for state parks and $2,148,000 for local governments. Furthermore, he said the biggest share of that money would come to the lake area.
"Nearly all the big boats are at Lake of the Ozarks. There are a few on the Mississippi, but those are really the only waterways in Missouri big enough to handle yacht-type boats," Rohrbach said.
Rohrbach said even though he won't be around to see such a bill written into law, he hopes the governor is successful in getting it passed.
Under the provisions of the 1992 term limits law, Rohrbach will be forced to leave office in January 2003.
In addition to getting rid of the boat-tax exemption, Holden is planning to ask the legislature to get rid of a law called the Geoffrey tax loophole, one which allows businesses to avoid paying corporate tax by placing passive income assets, such as certificates of deposits, in out of state banks.
The Geoffrey tax loophole is named after the Toys R US trademark giraffe. The quirk in the state tax law lets large multi-state corporations, such as Toys R US and Home Depot, avoid paying Missouri's corporate income tax by transferring profits to a corporation in Delaware.
According to Holden, Missouri is one of the few states which still has a Geoffrey tax loophole on its books.
Ya, if this goes through I might have to reconsider the upgrade to a cruiser next year...
Just like every other state/local tax, there will be ways around it that will only result in lost jobs for MO boat sellers.
If you want details, Email me.
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