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Ludicrous R.I. tax penalizes pilots for visiting stateLudicrous R.I. tax penalizes pilots for visiting state

Mr. R. Gary Clark
Tax Administrator
Rhode Island Division of Taxation
One Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908

Dear Mr. Clark:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association represents more than 400,000 members nationwide, 900 of whom reside in Rhode Island. Our nearly 13,700 member pilots and aircraft owners in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts routinely fly their personal aircraft between and amongst airports in Rhode Island for business and pleasure.

AOPA is strongly opposed to the issuance of the emergency regulation imposing a sales and use tax on non-commercial aircraft. We ask that this tax be rescinded. The financial implications of taxing any aircraft using a Rhode Island airport more than three times in a month or remaining in the state overnight is preposterous.

There are seven public-use airports in Rhode Island. These airports are available for the public's unrestricted access to our nation's air transportation system. Imposing this use tax on aircraft is synonymous to imposing a tax based on the value of a car driving on a state highway, regardless of which state the car is licensed. The result is an unenforceable tax that will discourage aircraft from visiting the state.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there are 440 aircraft registered in Rhode Island. In addition, there are 3,044 aircraft in Connecticut, 4,154 in Massachusetts, and 8,953 aircraft in New York. Many of these aircraft based outside of Rhode Island are within an hour's flight to a Rhode Island airport. These aircraft owners routinely make more than three trips to Rhode Island airports in a given month, stopping at several airports along the way, in order to visit tourist sites, visit friends and relatives, conduct business, or conduct flight training. That same aircraft could remain overnight for an extended visit to enjoy Rhode Island's scenery or to wait out weather.

Under the provisions of the emergency regulation, these aircraft would be subject to the state's use tax of 7 percent. This is unacceptable and will result in aircraft owners avoiding Rhode Island airports for fear of being taxed. According to a 1999 Rhode Island Airport Economic Impact Study, there were more than 105,920 visitors to Rhode Island onboard non-commercial general aviation aircraft. More than 20 percent stayed overnight, totaling about $6 million in visitor economic impact to the state. Any taxing scheme that singles out these non-commercial aircraft visitors will have a negative impact on the businesses and industries that general aviation supports.

AOPA strongly recommends that the emergency regulation concerning the sales and use tax of non-commercial aircraft be rescinded.

Sincerely,

Andrew V. Cebula
Senior Vice President
Government and Technical Affairs

Cc: Craig Dotlo, AOPA Northeast Regional Representative

August 26, 2003

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