It's rusty and ripped up, the Aruba is not the best looking boat. It's 26-feet long and worth about $6000. It's excise tax bill last year? $53.00.  But how about this beauty? It's well kept and sleek. It's 27-feet long and worth five times as much $30,000. Last year's excise tax tab for this boat: $53.00.  Yup. The tax bills for two very different boats are just the same. And our investigation found in Massachusetts it happens all the time.  We found excise tax on boats is based on the boats length and age, not on the boat's value.  Hank Phillippi Ryan, investigative reporter"Who's getting a good deal here?" Jean Reedy, former Fairhaven assessor"The boat owners with the more expensive boats." Hank Phillippi Ryan, investigative reporter"Why?" Jean Reedy, former Fairhaven assessor"Because they're not paying their fair share." It's not like excise tax on cars. That is based on the value, and the older the car, the lower the tax. If they taxed cars the way they do boats it would be like taking a luxury car and a same-size, same-age clunker, then sending owners the exact same tax bill.  There's more! Though a boat may be worth millions our investigation found their value is capped at $50,000. And all boats over 60 feet have the same tax brackets. So quiz: which of these would incur the highest tax bill? Answer: they'd all be the same.  That means you lose. Police officers, firefighters, trash collection, pothole repair, community budgets count on excise tax to help pay for all that.  Michael Widmer, Mass. Taxpayers Foundation"Why should wealthy boat owners get some kind of tax break, when cities and towns are starved for appropriate and legitimate revenue."  Hank Phillippi Ryan, investigative reporter"And that's what's happening now?" Michael Widmer, Mass. Taxpayers Foundation"And that's clearly what is happening across the state now."  Two-thousand boat owners pay taxes here in Quincy and the tax collector calculates her city is losing big bucks.  Marion Fantucchio, Quincy assessor "It would certainly be considerably more, if we had a different valuation system." Look at these bills. We found for years town assessors and harbormasters have pushed the legislature to change the system, but they got nowhere.  Jean Reedy, former Fairhaven assessor"They just die in house, they die." Hank Phillippi Ryan, investigative reporter"And when you say why?" Jean Reedy, former Fairhaven assessor"We don't know. We ask why and they don't know." We did search Massachusetts boat registrations and we did find Massachusetts lawmakers who own big boats, but there's no way to confirm that's why the boat bill keeps getting sunk. Hank Phillippi Ryan, investigative reporter"Some people think the current system works just fine. A trade association for boat manufacturers and brokers testified against changing it, they say with about 150,000 boats registered in Massachusetts, it would be impossible to assess their value every year."(Copyright (c) 2008 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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