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Q & A
Registering Federally Documented Boats
I am a Pennsylvania resident who owns a federally-documented motorboat, which I use for recreation. I've been told that Pennsylvania law requires me to register my boat. I want to comply with the law, but I don't believe I owe Pennsylvania sales/use tax on this boat. Can I still register it?
Yes. The Fish and Boat Commission will process the registration of a federally-documented boat used for recreation where the owner does not remit the sales tax because he or she believes no sales/use taxes are owed.

Pennsylvania law requires that federally-documented boats used for recreation be registered when Pennsylvania is the state of principal use. The owner must register the boat, and obtain a registration card and display a validation decal.  State registration numbers are not displayed on documented boats. The registration requirements are set forth in Act 1996-73.

All Pennsylvania boat owners are, of course, expected to pay all applicable sales/use taxes on their boats.  A person registering a boat in Pennsylvania ordinarily pays sales/use tax at the time of purchase of the boat.  Sales/use tax on boats purchased outside the state or in a private transaction are usually paid at the time of registration. 

However,  there may be a few cases where a person registering a boat does not pay Pennsylvania state sales/use tax at the time of registration.  The person registering the boat may not believe he or she owes sales/use taxes because, for example, he or she paid them at the time of purchase some years ago.  In such a case, the registration can still be completed. The applicant should submit sales/use tax information using a form provided by the Commission. The Fish and Boat Commission will then process the registration and issue the registration certificate and decal. 

The Commission will forward the sales/use tax information to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, which will review it and determine whether any sales/use taxes are due and owing. If the Department of Revenue notifies the Fish and Boat Commission that a holder of a boat registration has not paid required sales/use taxes, the registrant may not be able to renew his/her registration when it expires.

Related topics
PA Boating Handbook
Frequently asked questions
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