Tax responsibilities of boat owners

Title and registration responsibilities

Most boats must be titled and registered with the Department of Licensing except for those under 16 feet in length and motorized by 10 horsepower or less. You may register your boat at your local county auditor’s office or with a vehicle licensing agency. You must have the vessel’s hull number; signatures of all owners except lien holder(s); and proof of ownership, such as the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin, Carpenter’s Certificate, Manufacturer’s Invoice or original Certificate of Title.

Registration process

The registration year for vessels registered in Washington begins July 1 and runs through June 30. When you register your vessel with the Department of Licensing, you may request to keep your U.S. Coast Guard registration number. Boat registration fees include:

  • registration fee
  • watercraft excise tax (0.5 percent of the vessel’s value)
  • use tax, unless sales tax or use tax was previously paid or the vessel is otherwise exempt from sales or use tax
  • derelict vessel and invasive species fees
  • derelict vessel removal surcharge
  • license and filing fees

You must complete a Declaration of Value if the most recent purchase price of your boat is unknown, your boat is homemade, or you acquired the boat by trade, lease or gift. The declared value is subject to review.

All boat owners must notify the Department of Licensing within 15 days of any changes:

  • owner’s change of address
  • destruction, loss, abandonment, theft, or recovery of the boat
  • loss or destruction of a valid certificate or registration

Within five working days of selling your vessel, you must notify the Department of Licensing of:

  • the name and address of the owner and transferee
  • the vessel’s registration number and/or hull identification number