Florida Department of Revenue
Sales & Use Tax on Boats
For Owners & Purchasers
What in-state and out-of-state boat purchasers need to know.
SummaryThis page discusses the sales and use tax on boats purchased in Florida or brought into the state. The Florida Department of Revenue wants to reduce the burden on all tax filers by helping them get proper, timely information to meet the state's filing requirements. The Department believes that educating taxpayers can help avoid mistakes that could cost them interest and penalties.
A 6 percent sales tax be collected on all boats sold or delivered in Florida - unless a specific exemption exists. Many counties impose a local surtax on the first $5,000 of the sales price.
All taxes are due at the time of sale and are collected by the boat dealer or yacht broker, who then pays them to the Department of Revenue.
All sales of boats between individuals are fully taxable to the purchaser if the sale, delivery or use occurs in Florida.
Florida has a 6 percent use tax - a companion to the sales tax - that must be paid on items purchased in another state and brought into Florida. It is due on the same items that, if bought in Florida, would have been subject to the sales tax. The county surtax on the first $5,000 applies to those items.
If a boat brought into Florida is subject to use tax, the department will allow a credit for taxes lawfully paid to another state, a U.S. territory or the District of Columbia. A credit is not allowed for taxes paid to another country.
When use tax is due
Under most conditions, boats brought into Florida within six months from the date of purchase may be considered for use in Florida and are therefore presumed taxable.
Use tax may be due immediately upon the importation into Florida if either of the following conditions are met:
the boat is owned by a resident of Florida; or
the boat is owned by a corporation and used by a corporate officer or director who is a Florida resident or who owns, controls or manages a dwelling in Florida.
The use tax may be due when a boat is registered, licensed, titled or documented in this state. Registration or titling is required:
within 30 days after the boat enters Florida if there is no registration, title or document issued by another state or the federal government; or
within 90 days after the boat enters Florida if the boat is registered, titled, or documented by another state or the federal government.
Use tax may be due whether the boat is registered or not.
A vessel that remains in this state for more than 90 consecutive days or more than 183 total days in any 12 month period is presumed taxable unless it qualifies for another exemption or it is in the care, custody and control of a facility registered with the department for repairs or modifications
Sales tax is not due, if a boat is purchased through a registered broker or dealer by someone who is not a resident of Florida and is removing the boat from the state.
Sales tax will not be due if the following requirements are met:
effective October 1, 1995, the purchasers sign an affidavit stating they have read the law and rule regarding the exemption and agree to remove the boat from Florida with 10 days (boats less than 5 net tons) or within 90 days (boats 5 net tons or more); and,
the purchasers of any vessel of less than 5 net tons, must immediately put the vessel needing repairs or modifications into a registered repair facility* and take the boat out of Florida within 20 days after the work is completed; and,
the purchasers of any boat, effective October 1, 1995, must furnish proof (copies of out-of-state fuel receipts, dockage charges or repair bills) within 10 days of removing the boat from Florida that the boat left the state; and,
the purchasers of any boat, effective October 1, 1995, must furnish proof within 30 days of removing the boat from Florida that the boat was licensed, registered, titled or documented outside of this state: and,
effective October 1, 1995, the dealer must provide within 5 days of the sale of any size boat to a nonresident purchaser, a copy of the invoice, bill of sale or closing statement, and the original removal affidavit.
This exemption does not apply to Florida residents, an entity where the controlling individual is a Florida resident, or a corporation where any officers or directors are residents of this state.
A purchaser who tries to evade the tax by giving a fraudulent affidavit will have to pay the tax owed and a mandatory 200 percent penalty. The purchaser could also face up to $5,000 in fines and five years in prison.
*See definition under "Florida's Safe Harbor Act.
Use tax will not be due on a vessel brought into Florida if the following conditions are met:
the importer has owned the boat six months or more; and
the boat had been used for a total of six months or longer in other states, territories or the District of Columbia; and
the boat's use was within the taxing jurisdiction of another state, territory or the District of Columbia; and
the purchaser has shown no intent to use the boat in Florida at or before the purchase.
If a sale and trade-in are on transaction, a trade-in allowance will be deducted from the selling price. Only the net sales price is subject to Florida tax.
Foreign flagged vessels
Vessels flying a foreign flag will be exempt from Florida tax if they have a current cruising license from the U.S. Customs Service. The vessel will remain exempt so long as the provisions of the license are not violated.
Boats for sale in Florida
A boat may be brought into Florida without paying a use tax if it is immediately delivered to a registered boat dealer or yacht broker for sale. To qualify for this exemption, the boat cannot be used by the owner while in Florida. It must be in total care, custody and control of the registered dealer as part of the dealer's inventory.
Florida's Safe Harbor Act
Any boat may enter Florida waters for up to 20 days per calendar year without being taxed.
If a boat enters Florida for repairs or modifications and is placed in a registered repair facility, it may stay in the state without taxation until the repairs are completed. Neither the owner nor anyone else may use the boat while it is in for repairs. When the boat is in the repair shop, the 20-day period is stopped.
A registered repair facility is defined as a full-service shop, marina or shore-side yard registered with the department. It must be on navigable water and have adequate piers, storage, haul-out capability and equipment to provide repair or warranty work.
The facility must have affidavits in its records within 72 hours of a boat's arrival and departure. If a vessel goes to more than one facility, a new affidavit must be issued by each repair yard. A separate certification is required for each sea trial.
Mere storage of a boat in Florida will not qualify for a "safe-harbor" exemption. However, a boat listed for sale, contracted for sale or sold using a registered broker or dealer my qualify for the exemption.
Sales tax will be due on all repair work performed on vessels in Florida.
Failure to comply
If dealers fail to collect and pay the tax or maintain proper records to prove an exemption, they will be liable for the tax, penalty and interest on each transaction.
If a newly purchased boat is given a tax exemption under the removal provisions and is not removed within 10 days of the purchase or 20 days after repairs or returns within six months, it is subject to the use tax, interest and a penalty equal to the tax. This 100 percent penalty is mandatory, and cannot be waived by the department.
Dockage checks, visual inspections, other enforcement
The department periodically conducts inspections at marinas, repair yards or other docking facilities to determine tax compliance. It also looks at many other sources of information on vessels in the state and contacts owners to make sure they're following the law.
Tax compliance is an important aspect of boat ownership because it helps pay for services provided by the state of Florida for the benefit of all boaters.
Who to call or write
For assistance please contact the Boat Enforcement Unit, 5050 W. Tennessee Street, Bldg. D-5, Tallahassee, Florida 32304; 904-488-3821.
For forms and general information, call Taxpayer Services, Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., ET, at 1-800-352-3671 (in Florida only) or 904-488-6800. From the option menu, select Information on Taxes or Forms.
Hearing and speech impaired citizens should call 1-800-DOR-TDD1 (1-800-367-8331) or 904-922-1115.
To obtain detailed written responses to your questions, write Taxpayer Services, P.O. Box 7443, Tallahassee, Florida 32314-7443.