Washington State Aircraft Owners Fighting Large Tax Increase
Public hearing Saturday morning in Olympia
February 11, 2010 — This week EAA alerted its members in the state of Washington about a tax bill (House Bill 3176) introduced in the state House of Representatives with a provision that would impose a 1/2 percent excise tax on aircraft owned by state residents. Currently an annual registration fee for a single-engine fixed wing airplane valued at $100,000 is $65, but that would jump to a $500 excise tax if the bill becomes law. The omnibus tax bill is aimed at helping close a $2.6 billion budget shortfall in the state.
HB 3176 also would require owners who choose to register their aircraft in another state to pay up if that state does not have an excise tax, or has a tax less than Washington’s. EAA is urging Washington aircraft owners to contact their state representatives and voice their opposition to the bill. They can also plan to attend a public hearing before the House Finance Committee, scheduled for 9 a.m. this Saturday, February 13, in House Hearing Room A, John L. O'Brien Building at the State Capital in Olympia.
John Townsley, legislative director of the Washington Pilots Association, is urging aviation enthusiasts, and particularly EAA members, to attend the hearing and give their testimony about how a large tax increase as proposed would affect them.
“EAA members should also talk to airport businesses and those who use the airports to find out how the loss of an airport or a significant cost increase would affect their viability,” he added.
The fear among many in the aviation community, apart from the disproportionately larger tax bill, is that the higher tax would force people to spend less on other things such as new avionics, maintenance, FBO services, fuel, and other economic activity that supports airports and aviation businesses in the state.
“We’ve lost three airports since 2005 and we can’t afford that to continue,” Townsley added. “We’re afraid 3176 is moving in the wrong direction and would ultimately result in fewer airports.”
Another unfavorable provision in HB 3176, according to language in the bill, is that all revenues collected from the new tax would bypass the Washington Department of Transportation’s Department of Aviation (DOA) and go directly into the state’s general fund. Today a portion of aircraft registration fees go directly to the DOA for minor airport improvement projects, pilot education programs, and the search and rescue program. These programs would be unfunded under HB 3176.
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