Pilots in Washington State are making a final push to persuade lawmakers not to enact a proposed aircraft excise tax.
The proposed tax, which is part of Senate Bill 6143, would levy an annual excise tax of 0.5% based on the value of aircraft manufactured after Dec. 31, 1970. Aircraft manufactured before that date will be assessed an annual fee, with lawmakers proposing to double the current fee. Estimates are that the proposed tax hike could lead to an increase of 1,400% or more, according to opponents.
Upon hearing that the legislation was in the works, pilot groups in the Evergreen State launched an education campaign to persuade lawmakers to drop the bill. Realizing it was necessary to present a united front, aviation groups joined forces to create the Washington Aviation Coalition, which sent e-mail reminders to pilots urging them to express their opposition to the tax to their elected officials.
The coalition “is made up of some pretty heavy hitters,” according to Bruce Hinds, director of the Washington Seaplane Pilots Association. “That opens up their resources, such as lobbyists, to help the little guys like us.”
Besides the state’s Seaplane Pilots Association, the coalition includes the Washington Pilots Association, the San Juan Pilots Association, the Washington Aviation Association, Northwest War Bird Chapters, the Washington Search and Rescue Association, Washington Airport Management Association, the Pacific Northwest Business Aviation Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Northwest Recreational Flying Association, and the National Business Aviation Association.
“It’s a much bigger picture than a simple tax on aircraft owners,” Hinds said, noting that a few weeks ago when the coalition was in Olympia, the state’s capital, to speak before lawmakers, one of the speakers was a representative from Alaska Airlines.
“They realized that even though they are exempt, they would be affected because of the severe impact to their vendors,” he said. “Those businesses also serve GA, so if they suffer, their costs go up and they move out of state or they go out of business.”
In its e-mail campaign, the coalition warned pilots that the annual tax “could represent an increase of 1,400% or more over previous aircraft registration fees.”
“It is vitally important that you let your state senator know you want the aircraft excise tax increase removed from the bill,” the e-mail continued. “Some legislators erroneously feel this bill will have little effect on the Washington general aviation community, and that all aircraft owners are wealthy. Tell them the truth!”
Hundreds of pilots have responded, contacting their elected representatives, pointing out that aviation in the state is already heavily taxed, so adding more expense may make some people quit flying altogether.
The legislative session ends March 11.