Outside competition drives bill to slash boat sales tax

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Don MacKenzie is a Niantic boat seller, pushing a bill at the Capitol Tuesday that would cut the sales tax in half for boat purchases in Connecticut.

“All we’re asking for is a level playing field so we can be competitive with our neighboring states,” MacKenzie said, president of Boats Incorporated. “So if you buy a boat in Rhode Island and have a way to keep there, moor it there, there’ll be a zero percent sales tax. Versus here 6.35”

Neighboring states like Rhode Island are aggressively poaching Connecticut boat buyers. The Ocean State eliminated sales tax on vessels and is moving in on eastern Connecticut customers.

“They’ve made it our problem, not theirs,” MacKenzie said. “They’ve created professional flyers to distribute at the boat shows, saying ‘why buy here? Buy in Rhode Island, zero percent sales tax.'”

Some lawmakers remained skeptical to the proposal. Seeing pros and cons to the current bill that would slash the tax.

“It would be a revenue loss, I don’t know by how much because we haven’t seen a fiscal note yet,” said Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Norwalk). “On the other hand, could it attract more people or keep the competition from neighboring states.”

Proponents argue that boat sales don’t just just benefit the rich and famous. There’s a large supporting economy of service jobs, that could also be in jeopardy, if competitive changes aren’t made.

“A small dealer selling 15 foot aluminum boats, if a person goes to Rhode Island and buys the boat there, he loses that. His yard worker loses that. Bottom paint, buying electronics, a trailer, sales tax in Connecticut,” MacKenzie said.

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