Friday, November 28, 2008

Cruising and Taxes

Found this article on cruising, in a Myrtle Beach newspaper. It's interesting to me, as the Davenport's used to have a slip in our marina.

Marinas say taxes, economy take toll
The weak economy hasn't changed Dick and Lynne Davenport's annual tradition of cruising from Rochester, N.Y., down to Florida in Ladyhawke, their trawler boat - part of the annual migration south for many boaters. "Actually, it's better because the price of fuel went down," said Dick Davenport, who was docked this week at Osprey Marina in Myrtle Beach.

Area marinas reported steady, if slightly lower, business this migration season - blaming the drop at least in part on customers' dissatisfaction with S.C. laws regarding boat property tax.

Marinas charge boaters for dock spaces and indoor storage, and offer fuel, food and ship supplies.

"I'm so upset," said Joe Polidore, one of the owners of Crickett Cove Marina in Little River. "It's not the economy that's messing us up; it's the taxation for boat owners in this area. What really hurt our business was losing 70 boaters from North Carolina who didn't want to pay taxes here."

Boaters who are in South Carolina for 60 consecutive days or a total of 90 days a year are required to pay property taxes - in addition to property taxes they owe in their home states.

A new state law lets counties decide whether to allow boaters to stay 180 days a year without paying taxes. The Horry County Council this week approved the first of three required readings of the law.

Ricky Ferdon, the operations manager at Georgetown Landing Marina, said he's lost about four boaters, saying he's heard other out-of-state customers complain about the tax.

To better accommodate folks who have felt financial strain, local marinas have made some adjustments.

"Up until this economic crunch, we only took one payment a year, and they paid for that up front," said Polidore, who has been at Crickett Cove Marina for about three years.

"We've gone to a separate payment plan where if they pay in advance, they get a free month. If they can't afford to pay it all up front, we let them pay quarterly. If they want to do it monthly, it's still a yearly contract, but we allow them to pay with a credit card on file."

The 57-year-old said out of the 292 boats stored inside the marina, about 25 percent to 30 percent have opted to use a payment plan.

Sherry Harrelson, general manager at Osprey Marina, said the marina has lost a few yearly tenants because of the economy, but not many.

"I think they're probably just trying to maintain the boat," Harrelson said.

John Wood, a partner at Ocean Isle Marina & Yacht Club in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., says he's seen a consistent flow of customers in spite of the poor economy.

"They're boaters, and that's an important part of their lifestyle," he said.

Wood, who often takes his children out with him on boating trips, says he's seen boaters adapt their excursions in more budget-friendly ways.

"We've seen where historically you might have a person go out and take a friend to go fishing," said Wood, who also said he's seen folks boating more closely to shore.

"Now, we're seeing that guy round up three friends and they split the gas to go fishing."

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