Boats

Richard N. Benson, Assessor - Recorder - County Clerk

Questions and Answers

Click on a question to see the answer, or Open All Questions.

  • Are boats subject to assessment or property tax?

    Boats are taxable and appraised annually at full market value. Their value is determined by reviewing purchase information and comparable sales. Information on their location and ownership is obtained from the State Department of Motor Vehicles, the United States Coast Guard, and on-site inspections of all marinas. If you have questions regarding your boat assessments please call (415) 473-7208.

  • Why are vessels assessed for property tax?

    The California Constitution 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, automobiles and other motor craft are still subject to property tax based on an annual appraisal.

  • Are boats taxed even if they are registered at the DMV?

    Yes. Property taxes for boats are not collected through the registration fee at the Department of Motor Vehicles, 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. Boats are assessed directly by the Assessor, in addition to registration with the DMV.

  • Do you still need to fill out the Vessel Owners Report if you sold your boat?

    Yes. In order to prevent being taxed for a boat you no longer own, the Assessor needs to know:

    • The date it was sold;
    • Who purchased the boat and is now the new assessee.
  • Is the Vessel Owners Report required if you haven’t used the boat in a long time?

    Yes. If you do not provide accurate information regarding the vessel's physical condition, an over-assessment could result.

  • Are active duty military members exempt from filling out the Vessel Owners Report?

    No. You must still fill out the report. Some military personnel may be exempt from paying vessel property taxes under Federal Law (Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act), but the Assessor still needs to collect the information requested on the Vessel Owners Report.

  • Are documented vessels still taxable?

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

  • How does the Assessor determine the value of a vessel/watercraft?

    The Assessor uses various approaches to arrive at the value, including the purchase price of the vehicle, improvements or upgrades that have been made to it, and the recent sales of comparable vehicles 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. Boats are assessed where they are normally stored when not in use.

  • Who is responsible for the tax bill if the boat was sold after January 1?

    The lien on ownership and the responsibility for the taxes are established on January 1 for the following tax year. The bill for the coming tax year is 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.

    When 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 the ownership issue at (415) 473-7208 (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.).

    The Assessor does not prorate the assessments.

  • What to do if you think your boat trailer value was included in your boat assessment.

    In some cases, the California DMV does not divide 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 (415) 473-7208 (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.).

  • Why did Marin County assess a boat that is docked in another county?

    If the boat is registered to you in Marin County and the registration does not specify that it is docked in another county, then Marin County will assess it. If your boat is permanently docked in another county, we will cancel the assessment and also notify the county in which your vessel is located. For more information, please contact our Marine Division at (415) 473-7208 (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.).

  • Who is responsible for the taxes when the boat’s owner dies?

    Liability for vessel property taxes attaches to its owner as of 12:01 a.m. on January 1 each year. The bill for the coming tax year is 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.

  • Who is responsible for the taxes if the boat is part of a divorce settlement?

    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. If you were both owners at that time, 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 (415) 473-7208 (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.).

  • Will your boat be assessed for property taxes while consigned to a broker?

    Yes. Only boats owned and held in inventory for sale by a licensed dealer are exempt from property taxes.

  • Tax exemptions for boats

    Special assessment of Commercial and research Vessels

    Boats used exclusively for commercial fishing, research or as a party boat may qualify for special valuation at 4% of their normal market value. Filing deadlines apply. For more information, call (415) 473-7208.

  • Do boats qualify for tax reduction if damaged by a disaster?

    Yes. Tax reduction is available for all damaged taxable property, including boats or other business personal property. Please contact us at (415) 473-7208.

Contact Information

If you need additional information or have more questions, please contact the Assessor Marine Division located at the Marin County Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Drive room 208, San Rafael, CA. You can also contact a member of the Assessor Marine Division staff via phone at (415) 473-7208 or via email.Office hours are from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday through Friday (closed major holidays).