Taxing of Motor Boats

by Laurel | September 11th, 2009

September 11, 1910, page 17

The discussion this week over the action of the South Holyoke assessors in taxing motor boats has been a warm one and has aroused considerable interest outside of the board of assessors and the boat owners and among the boatmen of Holyoke. A fair view of the situation would seem to place both sides of the dispute as being right in a measure with of course, the power to act in the hands of the board. From the assessors’ side no one can dispute their right to tax motor boats or any other personal property or the right to assess such a tax, using their own estimate as to the value of the property assessed. The board are not paid such a munificent salary that they can afford to devote their whole time to the business of valuations or keep their office open every day in the year for the hearing of taxpayers, and it is to be presumed that being unaccustomed to the cost of the boats they placed what they believed was a fair estimate on their value. The principal complaint of the boat owners has been and is that discrimination has been shown by the board against the boat owners as a whole and that other personal property has knowingly been left by the board without taxation. The secondary complaints are that the board made no endeavor to secure the names of boat owners or to notify the boat owners of a change in policy this spring that the boats were to be taxed, giving no opportunity for them to come before the board and declare the value of the boats. This, of course, would make little difference unless a sharp division of opinion as to the value of a boat arises between the owner and the board, and it is desired to take the matter over their heads in which case should the boat owner win, he is handicapped to a certain extent in not having declared the property earlier in the year.

Another secondary complaint is over the unequal valuation of the boats by the board, and when one boat owner asked why he was taxed some $2 higher than others who had better boats, the rather astonishing information was given by the board that it was because he built his boat in town. This would seem to be a case for the town board of trade to take up and learn why home industries are frowned upon by the assessors. The principal complaint made at the hearing Wednesday evening was that the boat owners should be taxed for boats worth perhaps from $100 to $500 and that the veteran firemen with a hand engine worth at least $2000 should be exempted from taxation. It has been urged since the meeting that the “vets” are a great benefit to the town and that they have done some excellent advertising for the town through the state. It is also urged that while they have won many cash prizes yet their expenses have been heavy and that they are not associated for money making purposes. This is all true, but at the same time it can be asked have the boat owners proved of no benefit to the town. The town receives no taxes on some thousands of dollars worth of property more than they would receive were it not for the boats in the river. Indirectly the boats have paid a tax to the town for years and the tax paid is increasing.

Unlike an automobile the boats do no damage to the town roads and aside from placing a sign at the old swimming hole forbidding bathing without a bathing suit the town has done little or nothing for the boatmen. The boats are not a money-making proposition and on the average each boat costs comparatively more each year to store, keep in condition and run that does the hand engine of the veteran firemen. Speaking of the veteran firemen it can be stated that the name “veteran” in South Hadley Falls as well as in the other cities in the state is a synonym which has a large amount of elasticity and in watching the parade of the several companies of the “vets” at a muster the fact is impressed on the beholder that a large share of the associations must have entered the service at a tender ages to become veterans while so young in years.

The boatmen have the better of the board in their contention that if one association is to be taxed for their means of enjoyment then if no discrimination is to be shown the other association must likewise be taxes. Regarding the complain that the board did not notify the boatmen that the new rule of taxation of the boats was to be introduced this year while it is true that the board is in no way compelled or required to so do, yet owing to the fact that in former years boats have not been taxes and that this form of personal property is not taxed in many if any places in the state, it would have been an act of courtesy for the bard to have given such notice and to have set a date when the boatmen would have been given a hearing in which case it is probable that a large share of the present unpleasant feeling regarding the board would have been obviated. The unequal valuation of the boats was to have been expected by those who had nothing to do with boating and had never had occasion to learn the cost of motor boats.

From The Springfield Republican.

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