Boats - FAQs

  1. Why are boats assessed for property taxes?
  2. My Boat is registered with the DMV and I pay a registration fee. Why must I also pay property taxes?
  3. I sold my boat, so do I still have to fill out the Vessel Owners' Report (VOR) the Assessor sent me?
  4. I haven't used my boat for a long time, so do I still have to fill out the Vessel Owners' Report (VOR) the Assessor sent me?
  5. I'm in the military. Doesn't that exempt me from filling-out the Vessel Owners' Report (VOR)?
  6. My vessel is a documented vessel. Must I still pay property taxes on it?
  7. I paid $10,000 for my boat AND trailer. Why has the Assessor assessed my boat alone for the full $10,000?
  8. How did the Assessor determine the value of my boat?
  9. I keep my boat docked in another county. Why did Sacramento County assess it?
  10. My documented vessel is in Mexico. Why is it still being assessed in Sacramento County?
  11. I sold my boat months ago, so why am I getting a tax bill for it?
  12. The boat belonged to my relative when he or she died in March, so do we still have to pay the bill?
  13. My spouse and I were divorced and he or she got the boat as part of the settlement. Can the Assessor bill the boat in my spouse's name only now?
  14. How do I contact the Assessor's Marine Division?
     

1. Question: Why are boats and vessels assessed for property taxes?

The California Constitution (Section XIII, Article 1) provides that all tangible property is taxable unless it is otherwise exempted by the Constitution or by the legislature. Household personal property was exempted in the 1950's, but privately-owned boats are still subject to property tax. 

2. Question: My boat is registered with the DMV and I pay a registration fee. Why must I also pay property taxes?

Property taxes for boats are not collected through the registration fee, as they are with motor vehicles. Where automobiles are concerned, DMV registration fees do include both a registration fee and also what is known as an in-lieu fee for property taxes that is returned to local government in-lieu of a property tax assessment by the assessor. Though it may seem like you are being doubly-taxed, that is not the case.

3. Question: I sold my boat, so do I still have to fill out the Vessel Owners' Report (VOR) the Assessor sent me?

Yes. That's because the Assessor needs to know: 1) the date it was sold, and 2) who purchased the boat and is now the new assessee.

4. Question: I haven't used my boat for a long time, so do I still have to fill out the Vessel Owners' Report (VOR) the Assessor sent me?

Yes, because without all available information regarding the vessel's physical condition, an over assessment could result if you do not.

5. Question: I'm in the military. Doesn't that exempt me from filling-out the Vessel Owners' Report (VOR)? 

No, you must still fill out the report. Some, but not all, military personnel may be exempt from paying vessel property taxes under Federal Law (Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act), so the Assessor still needs to collect the information requested on the VOR.

6. Question: My vessel is a documented vessel. Must I still pay property taxes on it?

Yes. The law does not differentiate between vessels registered with the DMV and those "documented" with the Coast Guard, and both are subject to property taxation. 

This may have happened because the Assessor relied on information provided by the state DMV about the sale. In some cases, the state DMV does not allocate the value between boat and trailer and reports it as a single number to the Assessor. The trailer is subject to a vehicle license fee that includes in-lieu property tax and should not be otherwise assessed. If you think the Assessor may have inadvertently assessed your boat's trailer as part of your boat's value, please contact our Marine Division at (916) 875-0740 (8am-4pm). 

8. Question: How did the Assessor determine the value of my boat?

The Assessor uses various approaches to arrive at the value, including the purchase price of the vessel, improvements or upgrades that have been made to it, and the recent sales of comparable vessels in the open market. A recent, arm's length purchase of a vessel is considered to be a good indicator of its true market value. 

If the boat is registered to you in Sacramento County and the registration does not specify that it is docked in another county, then Sacramento County will assess it. If your boat is habitually docked in another county, we will cancel the assessment and also notify the county in which your vessel is located of that action. To discuss the problem, contact our Marine Division at (916) 875-0740 (8am-4pm).

10. Question: My documented vessel is in Mexico. Why is it still being assessed in Sacramento County?

A documented vessel is assessed at the "place of documentation" unless it is kept elsewhere and notice of this fact has been sent to the Assessor of the county in which it is documented. Temporary absences of a few months duration would not affect the situs of the vessel. If you feel your vessel is being improperly assessed in Sacramento County, then you should call the Assessor's Marine Division at (916) 875-0740 (8am-4pm).

11. Question: I sold my boat months ago, so why am I getting a tax bill for it?

Liability for vessel property taxes attaches to its owner as of 12:01 a.m. on January 1 each year (the lien date). The bill for the coming tax year is then issued to the owner of record at that time, and that individual is liable for the taxes even if the boat was sold soon after that date. Where the boat was sold just before the lien date (December 30, for example), the new owner would be liable for the new bill. If you were not the owner on January 1, but the bill was issued in your name, then you need to contact the Assessor's Marine Division to resolve that problem at (916) 875-0740 (8am-4pm). 

12. Question: The boat belonged to my relative when he or she died, so do we still have to pay the bill?

Liability for vessel property taxes attaches to its owner as of 12:01 a.m. on January 1 each year (the lien date). The bill for the coming tax year is then issued to the owner of record at that time, and that individual, or their estate (if they are now deceased), is liable for the taxes. If the owner of record on the lien date is now deceased, you should contact the person or entity that is administering your relative's estate and bring the outstanding bill to their attention. 

13. Question: My spouse and I were divorced and he or she got the boat as part of the settlement. Can the Assessor bill the boat in my spouse's name only now?

If, in a divorce proceeding, a spouse was given sole title to the boat prior to 12:01 a.m. January 1 (the lien date), then that spouse alone would be liable for the tax bill created for that lien date. If title passed to your spouse after January 1, the bill would be issued to the owner or owners of record as of that date and, if you were both owners then, the Assessor could not remove your name. If your spouse was awarded the vessel prior to January 1, but the bill was issued in both your names, then in order to resolve that problem, you need to contact the Assessor's Marine division. You will also need to provide us with copies of those court documents which ordered the transfer to your spouse (916) 875-0740 (8am-4pm). 

  • You can call the Marine Division at (916) 875-0740 (8am-4pm).
  • You can FAX the Marine Division at (916) 875-0705 (8am-4pm).
  • You can e-mail the Marine Division at PPDutyApr@SacCounty.net.
  • You can visit or write The Sacramento County Assessor's Office, Marine Division, 3701 Power Inn Rd, Suite 3000, Sacramento, CA 95826-4329.