Boat and Watercraft Information

Boats are taxable and are appraised annually at current market value as of January 1. Values are determined by reviewing purchase prices, sales of comparable boats and other market data. Information on their location and ownership is obtained from the Department of Motor Vehicles, the United States Coast Guard, marina listings and on-site inspections.

This category of property includes jet skis, sailboats, runabouts, cruisers, motor yachts, tugboats, barges, and other vessel types.

Vessels registered with the United States Coast Guard or the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) are subject to property tax based on the fair market value of their vessel.

Prospective vessel owners should ensure that they may obtain clear title to the vessel they intend to purchase. You may not be able to register your vessel with the DMV until any unpaid tax bills are satisfied and a tax clearance certificate is obtained from the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s office and included with the vessel registration. Current owners must also keep their tax payments current to ensure continuous registration.

Taxes on Moorings, Boat Slips and Tie Downs

Private use of public property is taxable under certain conditions. If you rent or lease a mooring, boat slip or tie down from a city or the county, you may receive a property tax assessment. You may receive a property tax assessment if:

  • You are using facilities owned by a government agency (city, county, state, school district, etc.)
  • Your right to use government-owned property is independent, durable and exclusive
  • You are not a government agency.

Frequently Asked Questions

Must I pay property taxes if my vessel is documented?

Yes. The law does not differentiate between vessels registered with the DMV and those documented with the Coast Guard.

Are boats held for rent eligible for the inventory exemption?

Boats are eligible for the inventory exemption if they are not out on rent on January 1.

If my boat/watercraft is for sale and is consigned to a broker, will it be assessed for property taxes?

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

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 like vehicles. Though it may seem like you are being double taxed, that is not the case.

My vessel/watercraft is docked in another county. Why did Ventura County assess it?

If the vessel/watercraft is registered to you in Ventura County and the registration does not specify that it is docked in another county, then Ventura 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.

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?

If, in a divorce proceeding, a spouse was given sole title to the boat prior to 12:01 a.m. on January 1 (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, 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, you need to provide the Assessor's Boat Section with copies of the court documents that ordered the transfer of title to your spouse.

Do I have to fill out the Vessel/Watercraft Owners' Report the Assessor sent me if I sold my boat?

Yes. The Assessor needs to know:

  • the date it was sold
  • who purchased the boat.

This is to ensure the correct owner is assessed for the correct year.

Why did I receive a tax bill for a boat I sold months ago?

Liability for vessel property taxes attaches to its owner as of 12:01 a.m. on January 1 each year (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. The Assessor does not prorate the assessments.

How does the Assessor determine the value of my vessel/watercraft?

The Assessor uses various approaches to arrive at the value, including the purchase price of the vessel/watercraft, improvements or upgrades that have been made to it, and the recent sales of comparable vessels in the open market.

I sold my boat on April 1. Am I responsible for the tax bill?

Yes. The lien on ownership and the responsibility for the taxes are established on January 1 for the following tax year beginning July 1.