Buying a Boat? Make Sure It's Properly Registered

April 16, 2011
Dwayne Page
Mike Clayborn

Now that spring has sprung many people will be spending lots of leisure time recreating on Center Hill lake.

If you've recently purchased a boat or planning to buy one, make sure you have the vessel properly registered.

Under state law, all mechanically powered vessels and all sailboats which are principally used in Tennessee must be registered. (Boats are not titled in Tennessee.) Mechanical propulsion includes electric trolling motors but does not include boats powered only by oars or paddles. Boats which require registration must be properly registered before using them upon any public water of Tennessee. Registration fees are determined by the length of the boat.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue requires that boats which have never been registered before must show certification that their sales tax was paid when purchased. The owner needs to have the appropriate County Clerk's office or boat dealer stamp the application verifying that the tax was paid. The registration form is then mailed to or taken to the address shown on the form for processing.

If a registered boat is being transferred from one individual to another, you must follow the same process as described for previously unregistered boats above. If a dealer is not involved, the county court clerk's office will require a notarized bill of sale from the individuals involved, according to DeKalb County Clerk Mike Clayborn. "We register boats just about every day. But what the Department of Revenue is doing now and what they have instructed us to do is that we must have a notarized bill of sale with the name and address of the seller in order to register a boat. The reason they do that is because on the information you have the TN number and the boat VIN number. They (state) run that and want to make sure that you're buying it from the person they have it registered to. It's a tax thing. Most of us know that our state is low on money. They are really getting to the place that anything which has taxes on it, they're watching. They want to make sure that everybody is paying their taxes, especially on boats. Right now, it's a big time of the year. Boats are being traded and being sold so anyone who is fixing to buy a boat, if somebody gives you the card make sure the name on that card and that bill of sale are the same person because if they're not, then you've got problems. If you have a bill of sale that is not notarized, it really doesn't mean anything. But whoever notarizes that bill of sale is declaring that they saw you sign that. This way you can't come back and say I didn't sign that because its been notarized. That's the reason they want the notarized bill of sale so there won't be any controversy about who signs the bill of sale," said Clayborn.

If you should violate the boater registration laws in regard to the payment of sales tax, you are subject to investigation by the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

Four and a half months ago, a former DeKalb County man, 54 year old Michael Gene Cantrell who now reportedly resides in Jamestown, was indicted by the grand jury here on three Class E felony counts of Sales Tax Evasion. The indictment alleged that between July 2003 and May 2007, Cantrell submitted false and fraudulent documents to the DeKalb County Clerk's Office for the purpose of registering two vehicles and a boat. The Special Investigations Section of the Tennessee Department of Revenue conducted the investigation that led to the arrest of Cantrell. The case is still pending.

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