California Use (Sales) and property tax
This topic has been debated endlessly here BUT, based on my experience with three boats purchased in Washington
and subsequently moved to California here is what I know for certain about moving a boat from Washington
If you have not paid your Washington sales tax you will have to PROVE to the California Board of Equalization
(BoE) that you do not owe them the 8% Use Tax (Sales Tax and it varies a bit from county to county). The California law assumes you DO OWE the Use tax if you have not paid it to another state. The BoE will assert their claim and it is up to you to prove you paid elsewhere.
You will have to pay property tax (1.118% in San Diego) on any boat that is moored, docked, or anchored in California on January 1. It does not matter where you live nor does it matter if you are a California or Washington resident. You will owe the tax.
2000 - We sailed our Caliber 40 from Puget Sound
to San Diego
, arrived in Chula Vista October, where she stayed until November 2001. We had paid Sales Tax in Washington AND maintained a Washington residence (owned a home), paid lots of taxes
in Tacoma. We had to send a copy of the Washington state sales tax bill to BoE in June 2001. In March 2001 we received a property tax bill for 2001 because the boat was docked in CV.
We took the boat to Mexico in November 2001 and returned directly to Tacoma in late 2004. We had to prove (marina receipts, Immigration documents, insurance
bills) to the San Diego Assesors office that the boat left California in 2001 and never returned. We had to send five sets of letters and documents to SD assesor before they stopped billing us.
2000 - We sailed my brothers Tartan 42 from Puget Sound
to San Diego, arrived in Chula Vista July, where she stayed until December 2000. He had NOT paid Sales Tax in Washington by the same method the OP used. He went to Mexico in December 2000, returned to San Diego in late 2001 and sold the boat in early 2002. He had to pay USE (Sales Tax) on the boat in California because he kept a California drivers license current
when he move to Tacoma in 1999. He could prove he was a Washington Resident for two years but since he never paid Sales Tax in WA he had to pay in CA.
He also had to pay SD property tax for 2001 and 2002 because the marina reported him as being in a slip for more than 6-months. He fought those bills and proved he was in Mexico in most of 2001.
2010 - We sailed our Caliber 40 from Puget Sound to San Diego, arrived in San Diego in September, where she has remained to date. We had paid Sales Tax in Washington (1995) but again, had to prove to BoE, in Spring 2011, we had paid the tax 16-years earlier.
In May 2011 we received a SD County Assessor property tax bill for the boat because it was at the dock
in Sunroad on January 1, 2011. We sent the assessor paperwork showing we owned property in Washington State and both my wife and I worked in Washington State (she full time, me part time).
That did not matter to the Assessor - as long as the boat is in SD county waters on January 1 - the 1.118% property tax is due by September 15 of that year.
Bottom Line in California is that the courts have ruled for years that anything claimed by the BoE or any Assessor is, prima facie, correct unless the tax payer can prove otherwise.
We are currently battling BoE about income
tax for 2013 when I was retired and my wife was a full time employee of a municipal utility in Washington. I made the mistake of spending more than 6-months on our boat in San Diego (so they claim) and therefore EVERYTHING she and I earned in 2013 is taxable because it is a joint property state. The husband/wife income
cannot be split and IF you spend more than 180 days in California in a year you are automatically a resident and own income tax.
It is up to us to PROVE I was not in San Diego for a total of 180 days in 2013.
There are many details and nuances to the issue but the point is that California ASSUMES you owe them a tax and will litigate, attach, garnish wages, bank accounts, savings accounts, and file claims if you do not pay.
My brother discovered this years after he left California when he tried to buy a home in Florida
and the escrow company found that California BoE had filed some kind of document that prevented his home loan from clearing.
You need to be very careful about bringing a boat to California for which you do not have a Sales Tax receipt!