Houseboats are typically classified as nontraditional structures, and some taxing bodies don’t even mention them by name in tax-filing instruction guides. Further, what one city classifies as a houseboat is considered a floating home in another. Then again, houseboats and floating homes coexist in some states. It's confusing, but Nevada has one thing in common with other states: Houseboat owners don’t pay property taxes. The sales tax paid on in-state houseboat sales rakes in big bucks for the Silver State, but sales tax revenue doesn’t compensate for ongoing revenue sources like property taxes.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and state and local governments all have vested interests in making sure houseboats stay afloat. The USCG is responsible for oversight, determining if hulls are seaworthy, navigational equipment is operational and flotation and fuel standards are met. If a Nevada houseboat doesn’t meet electrical and ventilation system standards, for example, an owner can be cited. And construction codes are stiff -- especially in Nevada, where million-dollar houseboats dot the state’s most prominent lakes: Pyramid, Mead, Mojave, Tahoe and Walker, according to the Enchanted Learning website.
Why No Property Tax
Houseboat owners don't pay property taxes because somebody else already pays property taxes associated with Nevada-based houseboats. Owners of the property to which your houseboat is tethered pay property taxes; houseboat owners contribute to the payment of these taxes when they write checks for dock space rental. For the purpose of levying property taxes, both the Internal Revenue Service and the state of Nevada define homes subject to real estate taxes as buildings that are not normally removable because they are permanently affixed to the land.
Other Nevada Houseboat Taxes
Though property taxes don’t apply, Nevada houseboats come with hefty sales taxes and sometimes excise taxes, which is why so many folks planning to set up housekeeping on a houseboat-friendly lake purchase their houseboats outside Nevada. A houseboat purchase in 2012 comes with a sales tax of 8.1 percent on the amount you paid. Whether you buy a nicely refurbished unit on Lake Tahoe or a pricey new floating home on Lake Mead, Nevada is happy to collect sales taxes on tangible personal property acquired with the purchase. That stated, there's an emerging U.S. trend toward co-op and condo-style houseboat docking facilities, so if owning real estate adjacent to a dock is your goal and you can find this type of arrangement, expect a property tax bill.
Things Could Change
The trend toward living on houseboats has grown so popular that some marinas are turning away “live-aboards,” according to the Bankrate website. It’s easy to see why: Land-bound homeowners are stuck paying for schools, libraries, municipal services and even waterway pollution cleanup costs via property taxes. All property in Nevada is reappraised every five years. Adjustments are approved by the Nevada Tax Commission. Should the state legislature decide that property tax revenues are slipping as a direct result of an increase in houseboats, Nevada could conceivably change its definition of real property and add floating homes to the list of homes subject to property taxes.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.