For decades, Prince William County has been a haven for boating and the marine industry in Virginia. It is home to numerous marinas, river-front restaurants, marine dealerships, service companies, storage companies, and specialty stores. All of these businesses pay taxes into the county.
Prince William County already has a personal property tax on boats at a rate of 0.00001%, making it all but non-existent. Recently, the PWC Board of Supervisors infuriated the marine industry by proposing an adjustment of this tax, raising it to 3.7% (an increase of 370,000%). It doesn’t take a degree in economics or a crystal ball to see how this will play out.
Boats and boaters in general are very mobile. It takes very little effort to relocate a boat to a marina in a county that doesn’t have this tax. In fact, the neighboring counties of Fairfax and Stafford have no boat tax and plenty of marinas to choose from. In some cases, a boat need only move less than 100 yards away from its current location to avoid PWC and its boat tax. This is good news for boaters, but not good news for all the tax-paying businesses that support the boating industry in PWC today.
It’s a given that the implementation of a boat tax will cause a mass exodus of boaters from PWC to surrounding areas. There may be some boat owners who try to stick around, but if history is any indication, they will be the very few. PWC may even get to collect some tax revenue from those remaining boats, but the money collected would never come close to paying for the cost of implementing the tax in the first place. What’s worse is what this exodus will do to the community.
Marinas can’t operate at 1/2 capacity or less, so as they shut down, those few remaining boats that were previously taxed will have to relocate anyways. With no boats kept in PWC, there will be no reason for boaters to frequent the river-front restaurants and establishments that serve them. As a result, those establishments will be forced to close as well.
With a boat tax to worry about, customers would be crazy to purchase a boat in PWC, and thus the dealerships will either close or relocate outside of the county. Finally, the specialty stores and marine service businesses will have to relocate in order to follow the customers, or just close up.
What was once multiple streams of tax revenue will shut down completely within a year or less, leaving behind lost tax revenue, countless unemployed workers, and urban blight, from which the county will never recover. Instead of increasing tax revenue, the exact opposite will happen – the total destruction of family businesses and the marine industry as a whole in PWC.
It’s clear that this new tax was intended to be slipped in at the last minute, as some of the supervisors weren’t even aware of it:
Help fight this boat tax by joining the PWC Boat and RV Alliance on Facebook!