Kansans to vote on reducing property tax on boats

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Kansas voters will get another shot in November to cut property taxes for the state’s watercraft.

A constitutional amendment that could save boat owners hundreds of dollars is on the ballot, effectively standardizing the highest rates in the Midwest with surrounding states, supporters told The Wichita Eagle.

Kansas boat owners are registering their boats in Oklahoma and Missouri, amendment proponents say, to avoid paying property taxes that can be eight times the rates charged in adjoining states.

Boats now are classified in the “other” category of personal property and taxed at 30 percent of value, multiplied by a county’s mill levy. A $20,000 boat in Oklahoma would carry a $150 property tax bill; in Kansas, the same boat would carry a $750 property tax bill, amendment proponents told the paper.

A yes vote on the amendment supports taxing watercraft at a lower rate. A no vote retains the 30 percent tax rate for boats.

The state’s Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is leading the charge for passage of the amendment, bolstered by state bass fishing organizations and marine watercraft sales firms.

A similar proposed amendment failed by less than 1 percent of the electorate in 2000.

The drive is based on statistics: Boat registrations are down about 20 percent in Kansas during the past decade, to about 83,000 annually. Those missing 20,000 boats translate to as much as $1?million in lost annual tax revenue, Dan Hesket, the boating law administrator for the wildlife department, told the paper.

“It’s our belief that if this passes we’d be bringing those registrations back into Kansas,” said Don Leatherman, president of the Kansas Bass Federation Nation, told the paper. “It’s kind of counterproductive, as we see it. People are registering and housing boats out of state. It’s kind of a deterrent to visiting Kansas, actually. If we can get the number down to a fair tax, we can fix that.”

Rep. Jeff King, R-Kansas, said the proposed amendment standardizes boat taxation with other recreational vehicles. A similar amendment for RVs passed in 1992 and eventually resulted in substantial tax cuts for those vehicles, which are now valued according to vehicle weight and age.

“We tax boats differently than almost any other kind of vehicle in Kansas,” King told the paper. “Much differently, and much higher than any other state. We need a fair shake, a tax on boats that makes sense because we’re losing a million dollars a year in taxes that should be paid right here. Instead, people look at our rates and dock the boats somewhere else — if they buy the boat at all.”

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