By Jennifer Renner-Gowan
The Florida Department of Revenue has given the green light to visitors to bring their new airplanes to the state.
The state has a long-standing statute that requires sales tax to be paid on new aircraft purchased elsewhere and then brought to Florida within six months of the date of purchase. If sales tax was paid at the time of purchase, but at a lower tax rate, then the owner would be liable for the difference. The use-tax statute was meant to ensure that Florida owners didn’t shirk their tax obligations by buying their new aircraft in another state with a more favorable tax rate.
However, an unintended consequence of the law is that out-of-state aircraft owners worried that they would have to pay Florida sales tax if they visit an air show or fly-in or bring their family to Florida for a vacation. That led pilots to cancel trips to the state or even re-route their trips to avoid stopping for fuel in Florida.
“There has been an attitude of ‘Hey, whatever you do, don’t go to Florida’ with a new plane,” said David Allen, president of the Florida Aviation Trades Association, which held its annual conference last month.
That fear negatively impacts tourism, as well as all the aviation businesses based in Florida.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association recently asked the Florida Department of Revenue for clarification on the use tax law, since many of the association’s members will be attending the AOPA Aviation Summit in Tampa this fall. The Florida Department of Revenue replied on June 19, writing that: “a brief, recreational use of property in Florida will not, by itself, subject an aircraft owner to use tax.”
FATA, AOPA and other alphabet groups have been lobbying tirelessly to get an amendment to the use tax passed. The legislation, HB 1379, proposed by Ralph Poppel in the Florida House and a companion bill by Steve Wise in the Florida Senate would amend the law to allow a 21-day stay within the first six months of ownership without any tax being imposed. That bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate, as economic and budget worries pushed it to the back burner.
“The uphill battle for FATA and the other aviation groups who are supporting our efforts is to work with the legislators to give them the necessary information so they realize they are not giving a tax exemption for aircraft owners, but providing a way to boost Florida’s tourism industry,” said Paula Raeburn, FATA’s executive director.