Butler County Times Gazette
  • Ballot question gives voters a say in boat taxes

  • Kansas voters will help determine changes in the state’s boater property tax when they take to the polls in November.
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  • Kansas voters will help determine changes in the state’s boater property tax when they take to the polls in November.
    Voters will accept or reject a constitutional amendment that would allow the Kansas Legislature to change how property tax is determined for boats, said Ron Kaufman, director of Information Services for Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
    Currently, the formula for watercraft property tax is set in article 11 of the Kansas Constitution. The formula for county property tax purposes is based on a rate of 30 percent of the vessel’s value multiplied by the county mil levy.
    That rate is higher than many other states. Neighboring states Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri plus Texas and Iowa don’t have property tax on watercraft and that is also part of the property tax issue.
    Since the Kansas constitution sets the rate, it will take a constitutional amendment to give the Kansas Legislature the power to alter the formula, Kaufman said.
    Watercraft is currently placed in the “Other Property Category.” The current formula produces a watercraft property tax higher than many other states.
    Right now the high property tax has prompted some Kansas boat owners to register their boats in other states to avoid the higher tax.
    While exact numbers are unknown, it is estimated some 10,000 Kansas boats are registered in other states. The Kansas watercraft registration fee is $32.50 and valid for three years. That means the state is losing $320,000 in registration fees to out of state registrations.
    Those lost funds reduce the amount of matching federal funds available to KDWPT.
    The funds could be used for a variety of KDWPT programs including improvement to facilities, boating accident investigation, officer training, search and rescue, boating education and water safety program, boating information and enforcing vessel operations.
    It also means those people are breaking the law because they are registering outside of the county where they reside and counties are losing out on property tax.
    “Since they don’t pay property tax, the counties don’t get the benefit of the tax income,” Kaufman.
    If the amendment is passed and Kansas Legislators can restructure the formula for watercraft property tax, it could make Kansas friendlier to boat owners. That in turn could lead to additional boat sales and encourage more people to go boating in Kansas.
    “It (constitutional amendment) will certainly make it easier to register the boats and pay taxes in Kansas where they belong,” Kaufman said.
    For tax purposes a watercraft is listed as a boat powered by gasoline, diesel, electric, oars or sail, including sailboards, personal watercraft (jet skis), kayaks and canoes.
    Page 2 of 2 - Kansas has about 85,000 registered watercrafts.
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