Image of Embarcadero Cove Marina located in Oakland.
Boats and Vessels
Why are Boats/Vessels Taxed?
The California Constitution and the Revenue and Taxation Code state that all property is taxable (including boats and other vessels such as jet skis) unless it is specifically exempt by law.
Boat owners pay a registration fee to the Department of Motor Vehicles, but the personal property taxes are paid to the county where the boat is habitually moored or located. If you own a boat in the County of Alameda on lien date (January 1 at 12:01 a.m.), you must pay the taxes on it.
Determining the Situs of Boat/Vessel
Section 14 of the California Constitution states, “All property taxed by the local government shall be assessed in the county, city, and district in which it is situated.” Revenue and Taxation Code Section 1141 further provides that “boats shall be assessed where they are habitually moored when not in use”. Domicile of the owner is the usual tax situs. However, proof that the boat is habitually stored or moored elsewhere when not in use overrides that presumption.
Registration information on boats comes directly from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Boats should be registered at the situs at which they are moored, and this will determine the taxing jurisdiction.
Proof of situs other than DMV registration of domicile could include receipts of docking fees (on January 1 and current), proof of registration in another county or state, and/or a copy of an uncanceled current tax bill from another county for said boat.
Additionally, a Boat Update Request is sent annually to existing owners which provides an opportunity to inform us if your boat has been moved to a new “principal location” or has been sold.
Notification of Assessment
Boat taxes are assessed on the unsecured tax roll. Your notice of assessment will be your unsecured tax bill. The tax bills are mailed mid-July and payment is due by August 31 of that year.
If your boat is located, or will be relocated to a government owned marina, you may be assessed a “Possessory Interest” (PI), and receive a separate tax bill.
Call (510) 272-3777 for PI information or go to our website.
Upon discovery of your boat/vessel, the Assessor will mail you a Vessel Owner’s Report. The purpose of this report is to provide the Assessor with information regarding the vessel which will aid in the determination of fair market value. Failure to file a Vessel Owner’s Report will result in assessment by estimate pursuant to California Revenue and Taxation Code section 501.
Confidentiality – “All information requested by the assessor or furnished in the Vessel Owner’s Report shall be held confidential by the assessor. The report is not a public document and is not open to public inspection, except as provided in Section 408”. (Revenue and Taxation Code Section 451)
A boat is taxed at the same tax rate applicable for the area in which it is moored. The boat’s taxable value is based on the purchase date, purchase amount, and depreciation (if applicable). Marine market value guides are also used as a valuation source. If marine market value guides are used to support a lower valuation, they must be within 90 days of lien date (January 1). Boats or vessels with a value of $2,000 or less are not assessed.
After enrollment, taxpayer requests for value review must be submitted in writing with substantiating documentation by August 15 of that tax year. Substantiating documentation could include pictures of the vessel, repair bills, or other documentation of damage. However, if after contacting this office your value concerns are not resolved, you must file an Assessment Appeal Application with the Clerk, Assessments Appeals Board, P.O. Box 1499, Oakland, CA 94612-1499 to protect your formal appeal rights. For information on how to obtain and complete an application call (510) 272-6352 or visit the Clerk’s website. The appeal application must be filed between July 2 and September 15.
Boats / Vessels – Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to pay the full tax if I sell my boat after the January 1 lien date?
Yes. Unsecured property taxes are not prorated by the Tax Collector’s Office. Any activity occurring after the lien date only affects the following year.
Should I notify the Assessor's office if I sell my boat?
Yes. This information will help prevent you from receiving a tax bill on property you no longer own during the next Roll year. However, you should fill out a Release of Liability form with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
My boat is outside the (county/state/country).
California registration indicates the boat is kept in California. If it is in the county more than 6 months, it is taxable here.
Why do I have to pay taxes on my boat to you and the DMV?
DMV collects a registration fee for the boat. The county Assessor determines boat values, upon which the personal property taxes are based.
Why do I have to pay taxes on my jet ski?
In California all property is taxable unless specifically exempt by law. (R&T 201)