Do you nearly go into shock when it’s time to fill your boat’s tank? Shock might be the least of it. Watching those numbers at the pump spin ever upward is almost enough to send even the young and super-healthy into a tailspin, never mind the rest of the population. And it really doesn’t matter if the price of gas has taken a decent dip, either–your happy dance at the pump on Saturday will be a distant memory on Sunday when you stop in to fill up your car and find that the price has shot up five or twenty cents per gallon.
A Beastly Subject
And the taxes…don’t even get us started! This brings to mind Ronald Reagan’s fitting quote, “The government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Although for our current subject perhaps we should add, “And if it’s a personal vehicle of any kind that keeps moving, don’t just regulate it, but keep taxing it.”
Pretty much no matter where people plant themselves on the political spectrum, almost everyone agrees that while some taxes may be necessary, many are way overdone. Take the perpetual vehicle sales tax, for instance. No matter how many times that ancient, dilapidated boat or car is sold; no matter how many years have passed and owners’ hands it’s passed through, each new owner has the dubious honor of paying a sales tax on the rust-bucket as the ever-grasping fingers of the state again reach out for its “share” like the tentacles of a covetous kraken.
Unless of course, you live in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, or Oregon, the only states that do not charge any sales tax. Most folks have found however that if their taxes are blessedly low or non-existent in one area of their lives, the government will make up for it somewhere else. It’s the law of the Western universe. And as if the flotsam and jetsom we’ve already mentioned floating around in the sea of taxes weren’t enough, there’s…
[Cue Scary Music] The Gas Tax
As the hideous State Tax Kraken rises out of the sea, this time it’s grasping at your wallet for gas tax money. Depending on which state you’re in, this amount could be anywhere between roughly thirty-four cents to almost eighty-seven cents per gallon. And while running away to a state like say, Oregon, that doesn’t charge sales tax is always an option, you can’t run from state gasoline taxes because they all have them–even Oregon. In fact, no-sales-tax Oregon was the first state in the nation to implement a gas tax, way back in 1919. The Tax Kraken will get you. One way…or another.
So, what can we do, short of giving up our automobiles (no way), buying electric cars (few can afford them), or–horror of horrors–stop boating? There’s no need for any of these unpleasant, even drastic measures. Instead, what if you could get your gas tax money back? Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is. But what if you could get some of your gas tax money back? Now this is something that can truly happen. Here’s how.
Chop Those Tentacles
Get out your cutlass. Most states have some type of fuel tax refund program for off-road vehicles and engines (think lawnmowers, generators, weed whackers, etc.). This can vary wildly from state to state, so be sure and check with your state to find out exactly what types of refunds are available and how to go about getting yours. As an example, the state of Georgia will refund all but one cent per gallon of 25 gallons or more of gas used to operate tractors and other farm equipment when used to grow crops.
They will also refund taxes paid for clear diesel used for the same type of agricultural equipment/reasons and 90% of taxes paid for fueling Field Use Vehicles. A happy addition to these refunds is a refund for purchasing 25 gallons or more of clear diesel fuel used for off-highway purposes.
The state of Idaho hands out gas tax refunds to most off-road vehicles, licensed or not, motor vehicle auxiliary engines (except power take-off equipment), and boats for commercial use. Dyed diesel has no refund because there is no highway tax added to it; if you’re fortunate enough to be near a station that sells red-dyed diesel, simply fill up your gas cans at the pump and don’t worry about filing for a refund.
Well, isn’t that nice for farmers, ATVers, and even commercial boat owners, but what about pleasure boaters? you may be thinking. There are a few grand prize winners here, and many of the consolation prizes are pretty decent. First, a list of the Grand Prize winners:
- North Carolina
This is a list of states that give back at least part of the “highway use tax” portion of the state sales tax on gas to pleasure boaters. Some states use the tax on marine fuel for boating programs and other marine-related affairs, while other states don’t bother, simply funneling this tax into their state’s highway improvement funds. If this annoying fact puts a storm in your heart, you’re not the only one, which is perhaps one reason why the above states deigned to give a bit back to the boaters. After all, pleasure boats don’t run up and down highways, nor do they ferry passengers and vehicles across the waterways. So why should pleasure boaters have to pay a highway tax on gas?
Washington Made Something Easy!
If you were thinking Washington, DC, sorry to disappoint but at last check that infamous capital was giving no gas tax breaks. The good news is, Washington State on the other hand has made it much easier for boaters to get their gas tax money back with a new free app, appropriately called Gallons. Head to the App Store or Google Play, grab yours, and get started. it’s as simple as taking a picture of your receipt, then clicking on the vehicle or piece of equipment you’re using the gas for. The Department of Licensing (DOL) will deposit the money straight into your account. Pretty simple.
And the list of things that qualify for the tax refund is fairly extensive compared to some other states. Not just boats,(unlicensed) farm equipment, and ATV’s qualify, but also logging equipment, dirt bikes, lawnmowers, and other landscaping equipment; plus rental equipment, and more are included. Unfortunately, at this time, Washington is the only state with the Gallons app, but hopefully, other states will soon follow suit. Perhaps some pokes in the ribs and bugs in the ears of state legislators in other states could help move things along. How hard can it be? (Was that a sort of “Famous last words” question?)
Now for the consolation prizes. These would be gas tax breaks on everything but fuel for your boat if you live in a state that doesn’t give refunds when you fill your boat’s tank. It may seem measly at first glance, but if you really stop and think about all the different things you use various types of fuel for and then do your homework, you may be pleasantly surprised. Some states even give refunds or partial refunds for propane, natural gas, and alternative fuels, in addition to gas and diesel.
Taking inventory of your own off-road uses and then carefully scrutinizing everything your state is willing to give a refund on, could yield a decent little chunk of consolation prize money landing in your account in the near future. So sharpen up that cutlass, matey, and have a go at those grasping tentacles. You can’t kill the Kraken but you can at least lop off a tentacle or two as it reaches for your wallet.