Georgia considers title law for boats

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A bill pending in the Georgia House of Representatives could give residents the option of titling their boats.

The sponsor says boat owners in the state could have an easier time getting financing, selling and straightening out their taxes if the bill becomes law, according to The Florida Times-Union.

State Rep. Ron Stephens, a Republican and a boater, sponsored House Bill 356, which would make getting boats titled optional. He pulled a copy of his county tax bill from his wallet to show that he’s still being charged for boats he disposed of years ago.

All are lumped together with vessels he still owns, with nothing itemized, leaving a total that’s difficult to unscramble.

“I sold them, but I’m still getting billed for them,” he told the paper.

Banks prefer holding title to a boat, especially with large loans, but Georgia is one of only a few states that do not issue titles to watercraft.

A title mechanism would allow the state Department of Natural Resources to track boats as they are bought and sold. It’s also a way to safeguard against attempts to sell stolen boats.

The total tax collected on boats statewide is about $20 million, Stephens said, but many counties would just as soon do away with the tax because the administrative expenses are greater than the revenue. Issuing titles would increase that revenue, he predicted, as owners see the benefits of requesting one.

A similar attempt at legislation establishing boat titles was unsuccessful several years ago, but Stephens is optimistic this year because his approach would be optional and would institute a 4 percent tax rate, compared with the 6.25 percent ad valorem rate now used on boats and automobiles.

The bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee.

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