U.S. Water News Online
SALT LAKE CITY -- In dismissing a suit by a boatowners association against the State of Utah and three county assessors, a federal judge in Salt Lake City has appreciably raised the tax liability of hundreds of pleasure boaters on Lake Powell, which bisects the Utah-Arizona state line. The boaters, who have resisted registering their crafts in Utah and paying property taxes, claim they are exempt from state registration and taxes because they use their vessels solely within a national recreation area.
But Judge David Sam of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed the suit, ruling that he has no jurisdiction because the Tax Injunction Act prohibits interference with a state tax system. Despite the plaintiffs' insistence that the suit was not a tax case, Sam wrote that "It is clear the focus of the plaintiffs' action is to avoid paying property tax on their boats."
The property tax bill for some of the pleasure boats easily ranges into several thousands of dollars. Utah is one of the few states in the nation to levy taxes on boats, and about 96 percent of Lake Powell lies within the state's boundaries.
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