House panel looks at sales tax breaks for Texas luxury boats – Corpus Christi Caller

JOHN MORITZ/CALLER-TIMES Greg Allison (left) of the Intercoastal Financial Group and Simon Urbanic of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership prepare to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday at the Texas Capitol.

By John C. Moritz, USA Today Austin Bureau

AUSTIN — Texas is losing business to Florida and other states on the eastern seaboard because of the high sales tax levied on luxury boats, representatives of the marine industry told a legislative panel Monday.

Greg Allison, a regional manager for Intercoastal Financial Group, told the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee that Texas should join the growing list of coastal states that have slashed tax rates for pleasure crafts that extend more than 35 feet and carry price tags starting around $300,000.

“It’s easy to say this is just another tax break for the rich,” said Allison, whose company finances high-end boat sales. “But the truth is, the rich already got their tax break from Florida.”

He said the Texas industry took a huge hit when Florida capped its tax in 2010. Others states, including New York, New Jersey and Maryland have followed suit and have seen their big-boat industries flourish, Allison said.

Allison said Texans with the means to buy large vessels that they can take through the Gulf of Mexico and even to the Atlantic are purchasing the crafts in states with lower taxes. And they keep the boats housed, stocked and maintained at out-of-state marinas, he said.

He and others want the Texas tax capped at $18,000.

A similar measure that was billed as a way to protect the boat industry on the Texas Coast and even on the inland lakes was shot down by a large margin two years ago. Two years ago representatives from the City of Corpus Christi were strong supporters, as were House members who represent the Coast. Backers of the measure are expected to file the bill when the 2017 legislative session beings in January. They said the big-boat industry in Texas pumps about $6 billion annually and

Allison and Simon Urbanic of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership said that if Texas was more competitive, any revenue lost on the front end would be made up down the line because the big boats would stay in Texas where they’d be maintained and outfitted. The money spent on those goods and services would generate Texas taxes, they said.

They said the big-boat industry in Texas pumps about $6 billion annually and adds about 31,000 jobs to the Texas economy. And that is not just limited to the coastal communities, they said. No one spoke against the proposal.

Just about every region in Texas with a thriving lake community depends on recreation and tourism to sustain its economy, Allison said.

“All around those lakes are people with high net worth,” he said. “And they like to boat.”

Twitter: JohnnieMo

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