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Registering a boat in California for non US Citizen


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I am about to purchase a used sailboat and something worrying came up:

I am French and live in the San Francisco Bay Area (legally). IIUC, you can register a boat either with the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) or with the USCG (US Coast Guards) under certain conditions, one of which is you must be a US Citizen.

All is good if I still can register with the DMV right?

Not so fast! This internet web page suggests that there might still be issues:

https://www.marlinmag.com/foreign-citizens-owning-boats-in-us/

And recommends foreign national to register their boats in a foreign country.

But this seems to lead to other kind of problems when trying to get the boat insured, get a slip in a local marina, or even to get an MMSI for the AIS.

How can I clarify this? Whom should I consult? Any resident alien in the US who went through this?

Thanks for your help. Will ask this same question in a couple of other places.

 

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I lived and worked (legally)in LA for many years, owned a boat (plus cars) much of that time, no problems. I just registered it as usual. With a drivers licence and a SS no you can do just about anything you want.

A "Documented vessel" is probably a different matter; same here in Oz, you must be a citizen to own an Australian Registered vessel (needed if you want to take it OS.)

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You have to be a US Citizen to own a documented vessel. Buy a yacht in an LLC. You can own a corporation that owns a boat. 

You can’t just create it. It has to be “seasoned”. You’ll need a Maritime Attorney. Mines in San Clemente. Pm me for his name.  

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26 minutes ago, no shoes said:

 

You can’t just create it. It has to be “seasoned”. You’ll need a Maritime Attorney. Mines in San Clemente. Pm me for his name.  

I've never heard of this before and I create dozens of LLCs a year, including LLCs to own boats.  Once you form the LLC and sign a couple of resolutions and maybe an operating agreement, you can open a bank account, buy the boat, get insurance, and register with the state agency, not the USCG. Depending on the State of formation, the process from formation to purchase is usually no more than a couple of weeks.  I would always recommend you do this via attorney or at least with the advice of an attorney, who can walk you through the process if you don't want to pay for full service.  

Is this 'seasoning' something you read on the internet or did your attorney advise you of this?  Do you have any more detail?  

 

 

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Hey Clean,

I guess that part is in reference to creating an LLC just to avoid paying sales tax. The state board of equalization takes a dim view of creating an LLC and not paying the sales tax. Since my babe is foreign, my attorney advised to only look at yachts in already established LLCs. 

I’m sure you’re right about the other stuff. 

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4 minutes ago, no shoes said:

Hey Clean,

I guess that part is in reference to creating an LLC just to avoid paying sales tax. The state board of equalization takes a dim view of creating an LLC and not paying the sales tax. Since my babe is foreign, my attorney advised to only look at yachts in already established LLCs. 

I’m sure you’re right about the other stuff. 

Ahhhh ok. Thanks for the clarification.  Equalization boards are indeed skeptical of those who don't pay taxes, and skeptical of single-purpose entities, and rightly so.

Someone should start a thread for maritime attorney information and recommendations.

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I read that an LLC needs to have 50% or more of its shares owned by US citizens for the boat it owns to be documented. So that doesn't seem to work.

It looks like I will have to be content with having the boat undocumented, and never go abroad.

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22 minutes ago, jdmuys said:

I read that an LLC needs to have 50% or more of its shares owned by US citizens for the boat it owns to be documented. So that doesn't seem to work.

It looks like I will have to be content with having the boat undocumented, and never go abroad.

Don't read.  Call a professional. It's almost always easier than you think. 

 

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Clean is right. Get a maritime attorney. A foreigner can own the LLC, you just need a US "manager".  Your lawyer will charge you a small fee to be the "manager" It's doable and affordable. Don't reinvent the wheel. Proceed with professional advice.  

I'm not a lawyer. Just been thru it. YMMV.

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Also, check the countries you are interested in visiting.  I've sailed through every country between Colombia and Alaska and checked in with state-registered vessels.  Not sure about Europe, I never delivered in that direction.  

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14 hours ago, jdmuys said:

I read that an LLC needs to have 50% or more of its shares owned by US citizens for the boat it owns to be documented. So that doesn't seem to work.

It looks like I will have to be content with having the boat undocumented, and never go abroad.

I don't think having a US state-registered boat prevents you from taking it overseas, does it? 

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22 minutes ago, TJSoCal said:

I don't think having a US state-registered boat prevents you from taking it overseas, does it? 

Not at all. Boats under 25 feet cannot be documented and they make crossings. I hear the state docs can get a quizzical look far from home. But keep in mind nobody really cares about pleasure craft documents. They just file a copy and collect the all-important fees.

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As pointed out above, registering a boat is very easy as long as you have a drivers license and SS#. I have done it (way too) many times. 

No experience with sailing abroad, but it might have some advantages to document a vessel I have never heard it is a requirement for a non-commercial ship.

What boat are you interested to buy?

 

 

 

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I think the issue (which I was not aware of is that), if you register your boat with the state and you are a non citizen, then your boat remains a foreign flagged vessel under US law.

No-one will know that your boat is foreign flagged until they check your paperwork. So for most boat owners it will never be an issue. (note: whoever is checking would need to check see your boat paperwork, an know your citizenship status, and know that this is an issue for it to become a problem)

HOWEVER according to the articles if you own a foreign flagged vessel in US waters and choose not to comply with all the relevant requirements ( such getting  a permit to proceed when you move from one port to another) then the fines can be big.

This is something I was totally unaware of until I read the OP's posted article, and my first reaction was, that can't be right it seems crazy and there must be a loophole somewhere, but so far all I have found is information that backs up what the Marlin article states.

So yes you can just register with the state authorities, but if you are a non citizen the boat remains a non US flagged boat, and you should therefore familiarize yourself with the rules and make sure you are complying with them.

I consider myself fortunate that I am now a US citizen so I don't have to deal with this. If I was still a green card holder I would be getting hold of a lawyer right now to get proper advice on this.

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I think this is a case of what the law says and what really happens. I know of foreigners who owned US state licensed boats and nobody cared. DMV got their fees etc.

I'd hate to have you hit with big fines but if you are staying in the Bay area, this is likely not an issue. You are not moving between Customs port regions. Half Moon Bay or Santa Cruz likely are not Ports of Entry so you are probably still within SF port jurisidiction if just sailing locally.  Here are the ports of entry:  https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports/CA

As a Canadian passing through the US with a Canadian flag boat we were supposed to check into each Customs port as we moved down the west coast. Customs always would have no idea why we were calling and tell us not to bother them.


On our last boat we had a Canadian license (like US state registration) and very easy to get. But it is just a small piece of paper and not very impressive. 

When entering Ensenada the Immigration guy wasn't going to let us in (he was notorious for wanting a bribe) with our license. He wanted a Canadian registration. We went back to the Marina, borrowed a Canadian boat's registration document, scanned it and changed the name to our boat name, went to the stationary store for the correct colour beige paper to print it on. Then we went to DHL and got a cardboard mailer. After printing out the "official" registration we put it in the DHL envelope and addressed it to ourselves c/o the marina. 

We returned to the immigration guy the next day, dramatically ripped open the envelope and said "HA! Overnight courier" and presented our fake registration. 

Stamp, stamp and we were in Mexico.

The fake registration looked so real we continued using it all the way across the Pacific... until we got to Australia and they said "Hey funny, we can't find your boat name in the Canadian ship registry database"....

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2 minutes ago, Zonker said:

I think this is a case of what the law says and what really happens. I know of foreigners who owned US state licensed boats and nobody cared. DMV got their fees etc.

I have no doubt you are correct.

My concern as a non citizen was how easy it is to do something that later causes problems with US immigration. Building  a life in a new country only to have that pulled apart because of some stupid rule that everyone ignores, was never part of my plan. 

Probability of it being a problem... vanishingly small. Consequences of getting caught.... unacceptable.

Not everyone would have the same view of the risks on this as I do.

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2 hours ago, Zonker said:

I think this is a case of what the law says and what really happens. I know of foreigners who owned US state licensed boats and nobody cared. DMV got their fees etc.

I'd hate to have you hit with big fines but if you are staying in the Bay area, this is likely not an issue. You are not moving between Customs port regions. Half Moon Bay or Santa Cruz likely are not Ports of Entry so you are probably still within SF port jurisidiction if just sailing locally.  Here are the ports of entry:  https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports/CA

As a Canadian passing through the US with a Canadian flag boat we were supposed to check into each Customs port as we moved down the west coast. Customs always would have no idea why we were calling and tell us not to bother them.


On our last boat we had a Canadian license (like US state registration) and very easy to get. But it is just a small piece of paper and not very impressive. 

When entering Ensenada the Immigration guy wasn't going to let us in (he was notorious for wanting a bribe) with our license. He wanted a Canadian registration. We went back to the Marina, borrowed a Canadian boat's registration document, scanned it and changed the name to our boat name, went to the stationary store for the correct colour beige paper to print it on. Then we went to DHL and got a cardboard mailer. After printing out the "official" registration we put it in the DHL envelope and addressed it to ourselves c/o the marina. 

We returned to the immigration guy the next day, dramatically ripped open the envelope and said "HA! Overnight courier" and presented our fake registration. 

Stamp, stamp and we were in Mexico.

The fake registration looked so real we continued using it all the way across the Pacific... until we got to Australia and they said "Hey funny, we can't find your boat name in the Canadian ship registry database"....

Many years ago I asked a friend who cruised Mexico what would happen if I dropped into Cabo to top off the fuel without checking in.  She said “They’ll put you in the Computer”.  I asked “What computer?”  She said “Exactly!”

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5 hours ago, JohnMB said:

I have no doubt you are correct.

My concern as a non citizen was how easy it is to do something that later causes problems with US immigration. Building  a life in a new country only to have that pulled apart because of some stupid rule that everyone ignores, was never part of my plan. 

Probability of it being a problem... vanishingly small. Consequences of getting caught.... unacceptable.

Not everyone would have the same view of the risks on this as I do.

I agree with this. I am in the process of obtaining PR in Canada. No way would I do anything 'grey" to put that in jeopardy. 

I don't know anything about a foreigner having a vessel registered to the State of California. I do know that a Canadian Citizen can own a corporation, that owns a US Documented vessel. To the OP, get a lawyer and buy a boat in an LLC. It's not grey, illegal, expensive or hard to do. Proceed with professional advice, SA is not a source. 

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4 hours ago, no shoes said:

SA is not a source. 

Funny.

I have lived for a few decades in the US and one thing I have learned is that Americans take any law or regulation with a grain of salt. This is ironic since it is such a litigious society. If someone gets a ticket for driving too fast, they will go to court and try to fight it, even while they know very well that they were in the wrong. Even DUI convictions are constantly thrown out. People even call their utility companies because they think they can get out of paying their bills, at least not on time. The only people who worry about laws, regulations, and paying their bills on time are foreigners like myself freaked out about either obscenely big signage (Buckle up! It's the law) or the fine print that requires a legal expert. I have never owned a boat that is worth so much that I would worry that the state would seize it, so I have never bothered with the fine print, and I will not now. 

 

 

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https://www.marlinmag.com/foreign-citizens-owning-boats-in-us/

seems like forming an entity is the way to go, according to Raleigh P Watson, who looks like he'd rather be yachting. 

I haven't taken the time to read the actual regulations so I'm not opining on the accuracy of the below excerpt.  Here's the part I'm most interested in, because putting together single purpose entities is the bread and butter of my work so it's quick and easy for me. 

In a general partnership, each general partner must be a U.S. citizen in order for the entity to be eligible to own a ­documented vessel. Additionally, U.S. citizens must also own at least 50 percent of the equity interest in the ­partnership. Limited-liability companies are a bit unusual because there are no regulations for such entities with respect to documentation, yet they are the most common entity used for vessel ownership in the United States today. Accordingly, their treatment depends on whether the LLC is a manager-managed or member-managed entity, with different requirements for each. In a manager-managed LLC, U.S. citizens must manage or control the LLC and typically own at least 50 percent equity interest for a recreational endorsement and 75 percent for a coastwise or fishery endorsement. On the other hand, a member-managed LLC requires all members to be U.S. ­citizens in order to be eligible.

In other words, it's more or less as no shoes wrote above.

Note that I HAVE NO OPINION as the legality of any of this.  But if the above is correct, the cheapest and easiest way to accomplish foreign ownership of a documented vessel in most states would be:

1) Form LLC online.  

2) Find a lawyer or friend you trust who is willing to be the Manager and nominal co-member of the LLC.  If it's not for hire, do the records yourself (carefully).  Recording minutes for an annual meeting, keeping the corporate books, filing federal and state/local tax returns, filing an annual LLC statement/report, paying the insurance premiums and boat fees.  Fees for an LLC vary state to state.  50$-$250 for formation AFAIR plus an annual renewal fee. 

3) Draft Operating Agreement to mirror the requirements: specify that it is to be Manager-managed, and include an equity blocker - a clause that automatically prevents an undesired ownership allocation from occurring.  "Members agree that any sale, disposition, dilution event, etc. of the Membership Interest that would decrease the U.S. Members'  proportional Membership Interests in the Company to below 50.1% shall be void"

4) Draft and execute resolutions to do all the business things necessary to run the business.  Open bank accounts, register boats, etc.

5) Get EIN

6) Bring all the documents above and your passport or license to the bank.  Open bank account

7) Buy boat

 

Now that I look at it, I think a Trust might be even better, but I am done procrastinating.  Anyway, the above ain't expensive and there's a lot of DIY if you have a brain and computer

 

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AnotherSailor: For sure, its probably not worth learning about for a Hobie Wave. Again YMMV. Clean might be right. Maybe there should be Maritime Attorney Anarchy so we can dork out on terms like General Average, Allison and Total Constructive Loss.

 "Individual state" is typically Delaware. CEO and the chairman of the board is your Maritime Attorney's office, for a small fee. They don't want to do it forever. So there is a service in Delaware that will be your US Board of Directors.. Geese its like $300 a year. I assume we are not talking about coastwise trade. From Clean's link: 

 

A corporation must be incorporated under the laws of the United States or an individual state, its CEO (or similar title) and the chairman of the board of directors must be U.S. citizens, and no more than a minority of the number of directors necessary to constitute a quorum can be noncitizens. A corporation that meets the above requirements and does not seek the right to engage in coastwise trade (e.g., a sport-fishing charter) can be 100 percent owned by noncitizens.

 

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Almost always would be easier and cheaper to do as an LLC than a Corp.  No shareholders, no board of directors necessary and state fees usually around half that of a corp.  I'm going to research Trust ownership of documented vessels at some point next week. I have to do a very long Asset Protection Trust Agreement so will find an excuse to bill a client for boat research*.  I know several US-based owners who own documented vessels via Trusts, so obviously the USCG documentation office is familiar with them.  

 

*kidding

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1 minute ago, MR.CLEAN said:

Almost always would be easier and cheaper to do as an LLC than a Corp.  No shareholders, no board of directors necessary and state fees usually around half that of a corp.  I'm going to research Trust ownership of documented vessels at some point next week. I have to do a very long Asset Protection Trust Agreement so will find an excuse to bill a client for boat research*.  I know several US-based owners who own documented vessels via Trusts, so obviously the USCG documentation office is familiar with them.  

 

*kidding

Agree. I'm American so I can be the manager of the LLC.  I'm just saying the Frenchman need not be afraid. 

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4 minutes ago, no shoes said:

Agree. I'm American so I can be the manager of the LLC.  I'm just saying the Frenchman need not be afraid. 

And you're right.  Client who manufactures sports equipment had a weird contract issue with a Singapore supplier two weeks ago that I didn't know how to handle.  I got a number for a singapore lawyer from a korean friend, spent 30 minutes on the phone with him, wired him 1500 bucks, and the problem was solved in a few hours.  Client happily approved beforehand when I told him: "You can pay me 4500 to figure it out in the 10+ hours it will take,   because I have no fucking idea how to do it.  Or 1500 to someone else to figure it out and 1500 to me for drafting it up.  It would be nice if you want to give me all the money, but I'm not sure your shareholders would agree."

 

 

 

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16 hours ago, TJSoCal said:

I don't think having a US state-registered boat prevents you from taking it overseas, does it? 

It sure does in any country not called Mexico or Canada.  You  must have USCG registration or that of some other country to travel the world.

The biggie here is tax not registration.  The CA use use and property tax guys don't give two beans about a boat's registration because they will tax the owner anyway.  The tax guys really do walk the docks.  I have seen them in SD.  They look like Mormons.

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15 hours ago, Zonker said:

The fake registration looked so real we continued using it all the way across the Pacific... until we got to Australia and they said "Hey funny, we can't find your boat name in the Canadian ship registry database"....

There was an Aussie who built his own boat and wanted to go foreign. His boat wasn't registered as an Australian ship (it's fucking expensive) so he just 'borrowed' the paperwork from another vessel that was and not going anywhere for a long time, if ever. Apparently the details were 'close enough'.

And off he headed, eventually returned. Apparently got away with it.

Took a chance though as our Customs and Border people are selected for their lack of SOH.

FKT

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7 hours ago, savoir said:

It sure does in any country not called Mexico or Canada.  You  must have USCG registration or that of some other country to travel the world.

Got anything to back that up?

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22 hours ago, Zonker said:

Here are the ports of entry:  https://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports/CA

Hahaha. Funny. CBP doesn’t have any idea about ports of entry or procedures. I checked that linked page. I used CBP info to arrive at Kaua’i a few years ago to find no CPB presence at all. Only banana inspectors or something. “We closed that office after hurricane INIKI (1992).” So huge crime to arrive there and of course they didn’t care that their web page was wrong. And still is 28 years later. But it’s Hawaii so they didn’t do anything. So two weeks after I unloaded the 37 Laotian prostitutes and the ton of opium in Lihue I went to Honolulu for formalities. Gotta love it.

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It's freakin California! Just declare yourself an illegal with a San Francisco address and they will probably waive your fees, hire an Uber to take you to DMV, give you a fast pass line at DMV and if you are super nice, give you a forged green card.

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Since last time, I collected a number of testimonies of foreigners like me who simply registered the boat with DMV and kept it undocumented. 
I also queried the French consulate in San Francisco, who unsurprisingly, could not help me.

However I also queried the French Marine Administration (Affaires Maritimes), who replied to me with useful information: I can actually document my boat in France. The processus is a bit complex:

- need to provide proof of EU certification for the boat. I am buying a Corsair F-27 trimaran, which some people do own in France, so I should be able to find that

- need to get a certificate from customs that I do not owe import taxes. Since I don’t import the boat, that should be fine

- need proof of payment of VAT *if* the boat is in the EU, which it isn’t.

- need a French address for documentation. Since I still have family in France, this will be easy

only obscure point: will I have to pay the annual DAFN, registration tax. But even if I did, it’s a couple hundred euros. 
 

the idea is for the boat to be both registered with the state of California so as not requiring a cruising permit, and to be documented in France for when I want to sail abroad. 
 

and to begin with, keep it simple, stupid: just do the DMV registration because I will not go abroad with a 27’ trimaran in the short term. I can take my time to decide where I want to go from here...

the LLC process described above seems complex and time consuming. my time is precious: when I am done with my job, I’d rather be on the water than doing some accounting or tax filing. 
 

in any case, thank you everyone for your input. I found it very valuable. And if you happen to know a decent maritime lawyer with practice in the SF Bay Area, I will be very happy to get their contact information. 
 

 

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Thats cool and sounds like it will work. In my marina, there are yachts that fly the Jamaican flag, Marshall Islands Flag etc. It is my understanding that they have to leave US waters every so often. So I would for sure check with an attorney. My guy is Paul Konapelsky in San Clemente (949)-720-2022. 

FYI the LLC is not time consuming or complex. Unlike a S corp, you need not have annual meetings, minutes or a lot of accounting. You just file some basic paperwork and write a check to Delaware and your Manager each year so check it out as well. 

F-27 cool boat. Bonne Chance.

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On 6/24/2020 at 11:09 PM, MR.CLEAN said:

Almost always would be easier and cheaper to do as an LLC than a Corp.  No shareholders, no board of directors necessary and state fees usually around half that of a corp.  I'm going to research Trust ownership of documented vessels at some point next week. I have to do a very long Asset Protection Trust Agreement so will find an excuse to bill a client for boat research*.  I know several US-based owners who own documented vessels via Trusts, so obviously the USCG documentation office is familiar with them.  

 

*kidding

I documented mine to my living trust and it was as easy as just giving them the name of the trust. Ownership on the certificate reads "XXX Trustee of the XXX Trust Dated XXX."

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19 hours ago, jdmuys said:

Since last time, I collected a number of testimonies of foreigners like me who simply registered the boat with DMV and kept it undocumented. 
I also queried the French consulate in San Francisco, who unsurprisingly, could not help me.

However I also queried the French Marine Administration (Affaires Maritimes), who replied to me with useful information: I can actually document my boat in France. The processus is a bit complex:

- need to provide proof of EU certification for the boat. I am buying a Corsair F-27 trimaran, which some people do own in France, so I should be able to find that

- need to get a certificate from customs that I do not owe import taxes. Since I don’t import the boat, that should be fine

- need proof of payment of VAT *if* the boat is in the EU, which it isn’t.

- need a French address for documentation. Since I still have family in France, this will be easy

only obscure point: will I have to pay the annual DAFN, registration tax. But even if I did, it’s a couple hundred euros. 
 

the idea is for the boat to be both registered with the state of California so as not requiring a cruising permit, and to be documented in France for when I want to sail abroad. 
 

and to begin with, keep it simple, stupid: just do the DMV registration because I will not go abroad with a 27’ trimaran in the short term. I can take my time to decide where I want to go from here...

the LLC process described above seems complex and time consuming. my time is precious: when I am done with my job, I’d rather be on the water than doing some accounting or tax filing. 
 

in any case, thank you everyone for your input. I found it very valuable. And if you happen to know a decent maritime lawyer with practice in the SF Bay Area, I will be very happy to get their contact information. 
 

 

 

Hopefully you realise that French registration doesn't mean two beans to the CA tax guys.  They will get you anyway unless you take the boat out of CA.  All this registration carry on seems a waste of time unless you can avoid tax.  CA boat taxes are high - 7.25% on purchase plus 0.77% per year.

 

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2 hours ago, savoir said:

 

Hopefully you realise that French registration doesn't mean two beans to the CA tax guys.  They will get you anyway unless you take the boat out of CA.  All this registration carry on seems a waste of time unless you can avoid tax.  CA boat taxes are high - 7.25% on purchase plus 0.77% per year.

 

Yeah you are right. But this is about ownership of the boat, not avoiding tax. You guys are throwing words around. There is State registration and Federal Documentation and/or both. 

An example of both would be, the Frenchman with a French document and California registration. Another example is an American owned yacht, built abroad, "in charter" at sailing club that is documented for pleasure doing charters or training. If an American owned, foreign built yacht, documented for only pleasure has California registration and charters from "time to time" it's allowed. If you have ever bareboat chartered a California boat you may have seen this; CF numbers on a documented pleasure vessel. 

 A person who is not a US citizen can own a state registered vessel. But , in reality it is a foreign vessel. There are some issues there. You may or may not be able to live with those issues. You might be documented for Pleasure but need to put your yacht "in charter", there are some issues there. You may or may not be able to live with those issues. You have to be a US citizen to own a documented vessel. A foreigner can own several types of American corporations, that own a yacht. There are some issues there, you may or may not be able to live with those issues. 

But you gotta pay tax. 

You need to pay sales tax and personal property tax. "But I keep my boat in San Diego and I live in and my pay property tax in Arizona."  Yeah, nobody cares. You have a boat, you are a rich bastard.  All boats are subject to sales tax (except an LLC, there is no sales tax when you buy a corporation) and personal property tax, (I'm not saying either is right or wrong). if your boat is owned by a corporation, there are taxes on that. Don't you know all corporations are evil?

 "All this registration carry on seems like a waste of time unless you can avoid tax". Maybe, just maybe you could avoid sales tax by purchasing an already established or" seasoned" LLC, but there is no way, without leaving the county, that you can avoid personal property tax. 

When you buy a house, there is no sales tax. Hmmmm. You gotta pay sales tax to California when you buy something on line from LL Bean, who has no stores here. But no sales tax on a house (I own both house and yacht).  Then most homeowners say "but I pay property tax." Yeah, newsflash, Yachts pay a lot closer to 10% in Sales tax (State, County and City) and closer to 1% in personal property tax, same a a house, every year. So a $1 Million dollar yacht pays $100,000 in sales tax and $10,000 a year thereafter in personal property tax. Thats life. That's how you educate the rug rats.  I'm not saying its right. I don't even have rug rats. I mean, none that I know about. 

Those of us that have immigration issues are just trying to own a yacht without getting deported. I'm glad the OP has a solution. I like those F-27's. 

Geese, Saturday night. I gotta get a life. 

 

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1 hour ago, no shoes said:

Yeah you are right. But this is about ownership of the boat, not avoiding tax. You guys are throwing words around. There is State registration and Federal Documentation and/or both. 

An example of both would be, the Frenchman with a French document and California registration. Another example is an American owned yacht, built abroad, "in charter" at sailing club that is documented for pleasure doing charters or training. If an American owned, foreign built yacht, documented for only pleasure has California registration and charters from "time to time" it's allowed. If you have ever bareboat chartered a California boat you may have seen this; CF numbers on a documented pleasure vessel. 

 A person who is not a US citizen can own a state registered vessel. But , in reality it is a foreign vessel. There are some issues there. You may or may not be able to live with those issues. You might be documented for Pleasure but need to put your yacht "in charter", there are some issues there. You may or may not be able to live with those issues. You have to be a US citizen to own a documented vessel. A foreigner can own several types of American corporations, that own a yacht. There are some issues there, you may or may not be able to live with those issues. 

But you gotta pay tax. 

You need to pay sales tax and personal property tax. "But I keep my boat in San Diego and I live in and my pay property tax in Arizona."  Yeah, nobody cares. You have a boat, you are a rich bastard.  All boats are subject to sales tax (except an LLC, there is no sales tax when you buy a corporation) and personal property tax, (I'm not saying either is right or wrong). if your boat is owned by a corporation, there are taxes on that. Don't you know all corporations are evil?

 "All this registration carry on seems like a waste of time unless you can avoid tax". Maybe, just maybe you could avoid sales tax by purchasing an already established or" seasoned" LLC, but there is no way, without leaving the county, that you can avoid personal property tax. 

When you buy a house, there is no sales tax. Hmmmm. You gotta pay sales tax to California when you buy something on line from LL Bean, who has no stores here. But no sales tax on a house (I own both house and yacht).  Then most homeowners say "but I pay property tax." Yeah, newsflash, Yachts pay a lot closer to 10% in Sales tax (State, County and City) and closer to 1% in personal property tax, same a a house, every year. So a $1 Million dollar yacht pays $100,000 in sales tax and $10,000 a year thereafter in personal property tax. Thats life. That's how you educate the rug rats.  I'm not saying its right. I don't even have rug rats. I mean, none that I know about. 

Those of us that have immigration issues are just trying to own a yacht without getting deported. I'm glad the OP has a solution. I like those F-27's. 

Geese, Saturday night. I gotta get a life. 

 

 

Coast Guard registration is a waste of time unless the boat is headed for places beyond Mexico or Canada both of which will accept DMV registration.  A foreign person who cannot obtain USCG loses nothing.  If they wish to do a little globetrotting they can quite easily register with some other country without leaving CA.  My boat lives in RI but is registered in Jersey.  It has never been there and neither have I.  All this worry about registration is a big fat nothing for most boat owners.

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3 minutes ago, savoir said:

 

Coast Guard registration is a waste of time unless the boat is headed for places beyond Mexico or Canada both of which will accept DMV registration.  A foreign person who cannot obtain USCG loses nothing.  If they wish to do a little globetrotting they can quite easily register with some other country without leaving CA.  My boat lives in RI but is registered in Jersey.  It has never been there and neither have I.  All this worry about registration is a big fat nothing for most boat owners.

I would, for sure, take savoir's advice. Don't take the professional advice route. Get your information from SA. Nothing to lose.

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Hey Man, do your thing. Do whatever you think is right. But, if you have something to lose, you might want to check it out. I own an LLC, Offshore 48 RPH,  another motor yacht in a family trust, and a state registered vessel, my beloved Catalina 30, among a bunch of other small boats. 

I'm American and I'm married to a Canadian. I'm applying for PR in Canada, I've done my homework. I have an immigration lawyer, an immigration accountant and a admiralty lawyer whose contact info I posted above.    

There is no such thing as "Coast Guard Registration".

You said up thread that boats under 25 feet can't be documented , when the rule is 5 tons. EDIT Opps, that wasn't you. My apologies. 

I'm saying to the OP proceed with professional advice. 

Or he can take your free advice on sailing anarchy. 

Edited by no shoes
poor reading skills
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4 hours ago, no shoes said:

Hey Man, do your thing. Do whatever you think is right. But, if you have something to lose, you might want to check it out. I own an LLC, Offshore 48 RPH,  another motor yacht in a family trust, and a state registered vessel, my beloved Catalina 30, among a bunch of other small boats. 

I'm American and I'm married to a Canadian. I'm applying for PR in Canada, I've done my homework. I have an immigration lawyer, an immigration accountant and a admiralty lawyer whose contact info I posted above.    

There is no such thing as "Coast Guard Registration".

You said up thread that boats under 25 feet can't be documented , when the rule is 5 tons. EDIT Opps, that wasn't you. My apologies. 

I'm saying to the OP proceed with professional advice. 

Or he can take your free advice on sailing anarchy. 

Oh really ?  Then how come the USCG logo is at the top of the registration application form ?  How come, after someone fills in the form, they are told to mail it to

" Director

United States Coast Guard

National Vessel Documentation Center "  ?

How come the website that gives the low down on things generally is the USCG website ?  Take a look.

https://www.dco.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Prevention-Policy-CG-5P/Inspections-Compliance-CG-5PC-/National-Vessel-Documentation-Center/National-Vessel-Documentation-Center-Instructions-and-Forms/

 

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I forgot to mention earlier but USCG registration is not a pre requisite for getting an MMSI.  If you plan on the boat staying in CA then register via a boating outfit such as BoatUS.  If you plan on globetrotting then you must first register the boat in some other country then apply for MMSI.

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4 hours ago, savoir said:

Oh really ?  Then how come the USCG logo is at the top of the registration application form ?  How come, after someone fills in the form, they are told to mail it to

" Director

United States Coast Guard

National Vessel Documentation Center "  ?

How come the website that gives the low down on things generally is the USCG website ?  Take a look.

https://www.dco.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Prevention-Policy-CG-5P/Inspections-Compliance-CG-5PC-/National-Vessel-Documentation-Center/National-Vessel-Documentation-Center-Instructions-and-Forms/

 

There is a difference between State Registration and US Coast Guard Documentation. It's not USCG registration. See your own link. 

Does it say NATIONAL VESSEL REGISTRATION CENTER? No. 

Listen, I'm not saying it's cool. I'm just saying it's complicated. 

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10 hours ago, no shoes said:

There is no such thing as "Coast Guard Registration".

You said up thread that boats under 25 feet can't be documented , when the rule is 5 tons. EDIT Opps, that wasn't you. My apologies. 

Please call the USCG and alert them:

From USCG materials: "Vessel documentation is a national form of vessel registration, evidenced by a Certificate of Documentation (COD) issued by the Coast Guard’s National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC)." The governing US Code also says "registration."

Yeah, it was I who wrote the rule of thumb about length and tonnage. It is common knowledge that most boats under 25 feet in length will calculate to under 5 NRT and therefore not qualify for USCG registration. Yet they have been known to cruise between distant nations without registration issues. Plus, nobody cares or checks the calculation anyway. Mine is off by 200% because the original owner made a boo-boo. So far that mistake has cost me about a dollar in excess port fees.

So neener-neener-neener.

I did manage to escape California sales taxes. It was not easy even purchasing and staying 8000 miles away. The exemption documentation must be exactly as requested.

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8 minutes ago, El Boracho said:

So neener-neener-neener

It is a form of registration, but it is called Documentation because you need more documents to get one. If you are giving advice and you are using the wrong terms, it undermines your credibility. Like you did, when you said the rule is based on length, when it is tons.  Its a tighter title. It's why a financial institution will require it if you borrow money to buy your boat. You don't have a boat loan, (unless you like paying 10% interest), you have a preferred ships mortgage. You have to provide build evidence, a citizenship requirement, and reason for the document. Examples are: Coastwise Trade, Fisheries, or Pleasure. A vessel is only eligible for coastwise if US built. There are ways around this too. 

Some of us have a lot to lose. Money, time, green card status. The whole, no body cares/checks anyways, and this is bullshit, is just a risk some of us can't afford to take. My take is, professional advice to your individual situation is quite reasonable. 

My wife just reminded me, "arguing on the internet is like the special olympics, even if you win, you are still retarded." I mean "developmentally delayed."

Carry on. 

 

 

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11 minutes ago, no shoes said:

"arguing on the internet is like the special olympics, even if you win, you are still retarded." I mean "developmentally delayed."

I agree. You won.

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7 hours ago, SCANAS said:

Fuck me. LLC to own a boat registered in a state. America, land of the documentation. 

A prudent person with lots of personal and real property has an LLC for each major asset they own. Once you have one (and it costs a few hundred up to a couple grand for that) it’s very inexpensive to do it the next time. Annual filing fees for llcs  that don’t earn any money are generally very low, and annual reporting/filing costs and effort required are also quite basic though important to properly complete. 
states have made it extremely easy to limit liability through single-purpose entities, yet many do not take advantage precisely because they perceive it as somehow excessively complicated. 

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17 hours ago, savoir said:

 

Coast Guard registration is a waste of time unless the boat is headed for places beyond Mexico or Canada both of which will accept DMV registration.  A foreign person who cannot obtain USCG loses nothing.  If they wish to do a little globetrotting they can quite easily register with some other country without leaving CA.  My boat lives in RI but is registered in Jersey.  It has never been there and neither have I.  All this worry about registration is a big fat nothing for most boat owners.

I disagree. One of the cool benefits is that you don't have to have those ugly numbers/letters and stickers on the bow. Just a nicer look. Oh yeah and think of the cool places you can go. It's like a boat passport.

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7 hours ago, MR.CLEAN said:

A prudent person with lots of personal and real property has an LLC for each major asset they own. Once you have one (and it costs a few hundred up to a couple grand for that) it’s very inexpensive to do it the next time. Annual filing fees for llcs  that don’t earn any money are generally very low, and annual reporting/filing costs and effort required are also quite basic though important to properly complete. 
states have made it extremely easy to limit liability through single-purpose entities, yet many do not take advantage precisely because they perceive it as somehow excessively complicated. 

They put it in an LLC to help minimise their exposure to tax or liability? Both I assume  

In Aus, if want to have a boat in a business the boat has to be kept in survey ( cost loads more than an LLC) the boat must available & advertised & used for charter with a professional captain. 

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4 hours ago, Caca Cabeza said:

I disagree. One of the cool benefits is that you don't have to have those ugly numbers/letters and stickers on the bow. Just a nicer look. Oh yeah and think of the cool places you can go. It's like a boat passport.

I failed cool school    :(

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This is a lot of faffing about for a 27 Trimiran that can fit on a trailer in your driveway.  Don't get me wrong, I sailed on one back in 1997 in Jakarta - great boats.

Just chain it to the trailer and call it an RV.

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