Does anyone know of a database that outlines the cost of keeping a boat in each state?
Not really. The costs can vary by county as well as state. Laws change and it's not easy to assemble all of them. Don't rely on any information without checking the state first. Local brokers genrally know the rules quite well. You could theoretically never stay long enough to actually trigger the state / local tax issue. It's all theoretical though. You can't do it practically for an indefinite amount of time. You also risk penalties if you screw up. It's called tax evasion. At some point the cost of constantly moving your boat adds up. All states that have taxes have a calendar based deadline when you must have settled the issue. States like VA make it interesting. If you pay the tax as soon as buy the boat they cap the Use tax to a max of $2000, but if you don't they change it to 5.5% of purchase price
with no cap at all plus penalties.
It is not about where you register or where you live or claim you live. It is 100% about where the boat actually is and how long it's been there over a period of time.
With US Documented boats the issue of your title would be done and not require a state. If you state register a boat they know you have not paid any tax. Here in VA they also notify the county / city so they can come after you for personal property tax. Just right off the bat you can't register the title in a state that you could owe tax. Many states and counties download the US documented list to find new boat
owners. The address you list may trigger them to ask you questions even if you don't keep the boat at your address. You can't use a fake address for US Documentation
since they mail out a renewal form each year (no fee required). It could be your mail drop service
as many offshore
cruisers use a FL mail service
. You can list any port you like and that does not matter. The port just has to be a "place" in the US. You still are left with people looking for you.
You would need to move around most of the year. Some states count based on total days in the year. You also need to rely on poor enforcement and that can be a misleading idea since just because they have a lax reputation does not mean it can't change.
Delaware is a great example of a free state. The ugly part is keeping a boat in Delaware pretty much sucks. You are hours from the Chesapeake and the Delaware River might just be the worst place I've ever sailed. People do it though and save all the taxes. You just can't hang out in Maryland
too long or they come after you. FL and MD actually pay retired guys to cruise
around and look for boats that might owe taxes. They check marinas
and generally take a very aggressive approach. With economic times tough for stets I expect the desire to collect taxes owed will increase.
It mostly comes down to what you really want to do and how you want to boat. Tax collectors know more tricks than you might imagine. Simple steps to evade taxes are not reliable and carry severe penalties for getting caught. Any state can chase after you to other states too. Life is short and boating
is supposed to be fun. If you like to run and hide from tax collectors I suppose it's a hobby. If you pay one place you can at least stay put as long as you want.