Saturday, January 19, 2013

Stress is at an All-Time High

There is nothing like owing the state of Florida thousands of dollars to kick a stress level into the high orbits.

I wrote about it before, but because we live and registered our boat "out of state", we had a 90 day exemption for the 6% sales tax that Florida slaps on boats.  Knowing that we would not be out of the state in 90 days, we paid $400 bucks or so for the further extension - 180 days - in the hopes that we would be gone by then and able to provide the Florida Department of Revenue the fuel or dockage receipt from another state, or customs form from the Bahamas that they require as proof.  We were certain we'd have the latter.

We will not.

Our "due date" is this coming Monday, the 21st which happens to be a holiday.   I'm guessing all my desperate calls into the Florida Department of Revenue will go unanswered until after our d-day has come and gone, which is incredibly nerve-wracking.  I sat on hold waiting to speak to someone in customer service for over two hours last night only to get an answering machine.  To say that Scott and I are stressed at the moment would be (to quote Tina Fey) 'the biggest understatement since the captain of the Hindenburg said "I smell gas"'.

There is a glimmer of hope.  We have been told that if we move our boat to an "approved" boat yard and fill out the necessary forms that prove our boat is "unfit for sailing" (which it is at the moment) we can get a further extension while we finish work.  The yard then sends the forms to Tallahassee, and then we wait and see if we're approved (I guess?).  If this doesn't work - we're not sure what we will do.  As such, we will be hastily leaving our beloved home here off Las Olas Boulevard and heading back to a boat yard on Monday hoping the tax-gods will have mercy on us, if only for another week or two before we can get out of here safely.

You might wonder why we waited so long, how this date crept up on us like this and we wonder this too.  We've been so busy trying to get ready that it literally slipped our mind until our broker sent a friendly reminder yesterday morning.  We wrongly assumed that because we were still working on our boat and not just living on it, we would be given some sort of clemency.  Surely they can't penalize a boat that is unfit to sail for not leaving?  Turns out they can and they will (duh).  Hence the stress tail spin.  Well, that and the fact that we have a total comedy of errors* going on on the deck of our boat and we're living in total chaos.

Do any of you out there have any experience with this?  Can anyone out there shed light on this boat yard tax exemption extension?  We would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, we're working as fast as we can.  This has really lit a fire under our butts!

(really, the appropriate term would be - pardon my French - "s**t show")


Anonymous said...

Hang in there! The Universe has some reason for the events unfolding.

Sharon Fellows Larrison Stepniewski said...

Not certain as to your situation exactly but wanted to warn you on another issue that might rise to bite you later. KEEP all marina receipts, fuel receipts, etc. for several YEARS so that, if challenged later by ANY state you may have cruised thru, that you have proof of where you were/when. Florida tried to get big tax bucks from us as we are FL residents since moving aboard. Finally Fun was never in the state except for passing thru. (We paid all sales tax to another state where we purchased the boat). We suspect FL got our boat name from one of the zillion bridge tenders in the ICW as we passed thru the state. Big laborious fight. I won. I had PROOF (all those receipts) we never were in the state 90 days....AND, be careful, FL law says that going to the Bahamas does NOT count - FL considers Bahamian waters as part of FL for taxing rules/regs. How they get away w/ that is beyond my comprehension - I wonder if it has ever been challenged?? So, keep those type of receipts in a file for several years as challenges come late for previous years.
Also, in the future, if you plan to stay in FL more than 90 days, and if you can prove you paid sales tax to another state AND more than one year has passed since that time, you can simply register the boat in FL (very cheap - max couple hundred $$) and stay year round. FL won't then with the tax paid and the boat over 1 year in your possession, try to tax the boat. That is what we now do as we are in/out totalling more than 90 days a year.
PS I gave up on the FL state website and called the Comptroller Office of Taxes directly and got good, clear info with documentation.
Good luck!!!

Rebecca said...

I don't know anything about the boat situation, though the above commenter seemed to have good information about that. But I can say that the one time I had to deal with the FL Dept of Revenue, they were very kind.

In a situation where they technically could have collected hundreds of dollars of taxes from us because of a mistake of mine, they waived the tax because the reality was different from the paperwork. I, too, could not do anything about my situation online. But one phone call, and a conversation with a very reasonable woman, resulted in a full year of taxes waived.

So, based on my experience, I would think there is at least a definite chance you could be pleasantly surprised by how the process will go. Wishing you the very best of luck.

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