It didn't take long for the Kansas Legislature to respond to the amendment in the Kansas Constitution allowing the Legislature to change the way watercraft are taxed in Kansas.
Legislators created the bill and Gov. Sam Brownback signed it into law on April 16.
The new law will reduce the boat tax to 11.5 percent of assessed value effective on Jan. 1, 2014. The rate will fall again a year later to five percent of assessed value effective on Jan. 1, 2015 and will stay at that rate, said Mike Miller, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism chief of information production.
The current tax on watercraft in Kansas is 30 percent of assessed value. That level is substantially higher than adjoining states and that created a problem.
Rather than pay the higher Kansas tax, many boat owners take their boats to adjoining states and register them there to save money. Oklahoma records indicate a substantial number of Kansas boat owners have made the trip south to register their craft.
"We know for a fact more than 5,000 boats are registered in Oklahoma because property tax is so much lower," Miller said.
It is unknown how many boats are registered in Missouri but KDWPT knows Kansas boats are registered there, Miller said.
Boats are probably registered in Colorado and Nebraska as well.
That loss of revenue impacts two areas. It impacts the KDWPT coffers because of the loss of boat registration money. The current registration fee for a boat in Kansas is $30 for three years.
When boaters go out of state because of high taxes, that registration fee goes with the boat. Boater registration fees are used for boater education programs, boat access facilities and other recreational boating programs.
The other area impacted when boaters register their boats in other states is Kansas's counties lose out on the property tax.
When combined, the lost revenue to KDWPT and to the counties was a strong reason to change the tax law.
Those taxes also meant that Kansas residents might be reluctant to purchase a boat in Kansas so support for the change in taxes came in part from boat dealers as well as marina operators and fishermen.
The current tax of 30 percent of the boat's value is based on the local mil levy so the amount will vary from county to county.
Miller owns an 18-foot boat he bought seven years ago. Currently, he is still paying $1,000 property tax on a seven-year-old boat, Miller said.
When the new tax laws take affect on Jan. 1, 2014, that amount will drop to just $300. On Jan. 1, 2014 the tax amount will drop to just $150.
Depending on the county, the current 30 percent can be as much as 10 times higher than adjoining states so it is no wonder some boat owners opted to travel across the state line to register their boats.
Kansas has from 80,000 to 90,000 registered boats. With the adoption of the new tax level those numbers are expected to increase.
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