Use-tax relief for aircraft owners flying into Florida

<BR cmid="Article:Two Deck"><SPAN class=twodeck cmid="Article:Two Deck">Good news for pilots attending AOPA Summit</SPAN>

June 25, 2009

New out-of-state aircraft owners no longer need to fret about landing in Florida for short-term recreational visits. Whether touching down in the state for vacation, fly-ins, fuel stops, or even AOPA’s new Aviation Summit, you’ll be in the clear. The Florida Department of Revenue clarified its use-tax law in a letter to AOPA on June 19, stating that: “a brief, recreational use of property in Florida will not, by itself, subject an aircraft owner to use tax.”

“This is great news for AOPA members planning to attend our first ever Aviation Summit in Tampa this November,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller.

Previously, there was some confusion about when out-of-state aircraft owners who purchased their airplane or helicopter within six months of their visit to Florida could have been hit with a use tax for 6 percent of the aircraft’s value (or the difference between the sales tax in their state and the use tax in Florida).

Mark Kimberling, AOPA manager of state legislative affairs has been working closely with the state’s Department of Revenue officials, who spent weeks researching case law in order to clarify their guidelines on the use tax for recreational visits—and, specifically, for AOPA Summit.

Robert Babin, legislative services director of the Florida Department of Revenue, specifically cited the use-tax exemption for Aviation Summit: “So, to be clear, an out-of-state aircraft owner will not incur use tax on his or her aircraft merely for flying in to attend AOPA’s Aviation Summit. Rather our use tax enforcement efforts are directed at property and property owners with significant connections to Florida.”

This is welcome news not only for those attending Aviation Summit—AOPA’s new annual convention designed to bring together the general aviation community, public, and policymakers—but also to those who plan to fly in for airshows or popular events such as the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland every spring.

AOPA has worked with state officials for two years to try to resolve the use-tax issue. Rep. Ralph Poppell introduced bills in the past two legislative sessions that would have allowed new aircraft owners to keep their aircraft in Florida up to 21 days—or longer for maintenance visits and flight training—without facing the use tax. Both times the bills passed the House but stalled in the Senate. This session though, AOPA, the Florida Air Trades Association, and the Florida Airports Council generated greater support and awareness among state lawmakers and the governor’s office. But the battle over the Seminole Gaming Pact and a massive budget shortfall brought this—and several other—important legislative issues to a halt, pushing the use-tax bill to next year.

“State officials now realize that this use tax has been depriving Florida of much-needed economic activity,” Kimberling said. Some new aircraft owners have been so worried about flying into the state that they altered their flight plans to avoid landing in Florida for a short fuel stop.

While this clarification provides some much-anticipated relief for certain types of visits for new out-of-state aircraft owners, AOPA will continue to pursue a clear and expanded legislative fix.

“This is a great first step, and we are very appreciative of the department’s efforts on this issue,” Kimberling said of the officials’ willingness to investigate the issue and clarify their guidance on the use-tax to invite aircraft owners back into the state for recreational visits. “However, we will continue working hard to get a bill signed into law with a broader exemption that does not inhibit any visiting aircraft owner from utilizing Florida’s world-class aviation facilities.”

Aircraft owners who have questions about the use-tax can call the Florida Department of Revenue at 800/352-3671.