Boat Tax Ballot Question Could Change Constitution

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Ask any boat owner if they pay their property taxes in Kansas and you'll probably get laughed at. That may soon change. Kansans will vote next month on a change in the state's constitution.

Would you believe that some boat owners would pay 800% less in taxes if they registered the watercraft in Oklahoma? It's true, and now the state is hoping voters will recognize the problem when they go to the polls next month.

"There is no other state in the five state area that requires a property tax except Kansas," said Nathan Blasi, manager of Wichita's Marine World.

Blasi sells boats in West Wichita. Using the two boats on his showroom floor as an example, Blasi says a customer could expect to pay upwards of $15,000 just in taxes before they even walked out the door.

"People love boating, so to get their boat on the water as cheaply as possible, they're going to try to save money in certain instances," Blasi said. "Unfortunately, Kansas is losing out."

Oklahoma practically caters to Kansas boaters, not only offering significantly lower registration taxes, but lower sales tax if you register an Oklahoma address or sign a form saying you use the boat more than half the time in Oklahoma.

"They're losing money because of it," explained Mike Kuhn, a boat owner. "People are leaving over it. If they would just bring it down, they would keep their money here."

Kuhn takes his boat across the line, In his case, he would pay $1,800 every year to register his boat in Kansas. In Oklahoma? A mere $200.00.

"They should just look around and see what other states are doing," said Kuhn. "Missouri, I'm assuming they get their taxes elsewhere. They're not charging us what they call a luxury tax for having a boat."

The vast majority of boats being stored at Blasi's Marine World in West Wichita had out-of-state registration. Add to the fact that Oklahoma makes it very easy for Kansans not to have to drive very far to save a lot of money.

"I would say that they welcome Kansas people with open arms," Blasi said. "There's no coincidence that there are three boat registration places right across the border."

If the vote passes, it will not change things just yet. What you are voting for is to re-word the Kansas Constitution and give the state legislature the power to tax boats differently than other property. Right now, it's a fixed system.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism has been lobbying for the change.


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