Tennessee Threatens Suit Against Boat Hobbyists

By Nancy Amons

The Tennessee Department of Revenue is threatening court action against a Murfreesboro man who built a small wooden boat in his garage with his 7-year-old son.

The state says that makes him a boat dealer and subject to paying extra taxes.

The boat is 14 feet long and made of wood. The family ordered the plans over the Internet because 7-year-old Carter loves to fish with his dad.

But when the Kings registered their boat and paid the boat registration fees, the nightmare started.

Letters from the Tennessee Department of Revenue say that because the Kings are boat dealers and manufacturers, they have to pay $539 dollars in taxes on the boat.

Johnathan King thought there was a mistake, so he called the auditor assigned to his case.

“I explained to them that this is just a wooden craft built in the garage, and they indicated that they knew that that was what this was,” King says.

Revenue didn’t back down from insisting they were dealers, and warned the family the state could get injunctions or even pursue misdemeanor charges if they didn’t pay the taxes.

“If we don’t, they could file liens and levies against the craft,” King says.

“To say it politely, I think it’s quite silly,” he says.

How could something you build in your own garage for your own use make you a dealer?

We asked the Department of Revenue for an interview. They said they couldn’t discuss the cases of individual taxpayers, and said that no one was available to speak about the issue, even in general terms.

Johnathan King says there’s no way he’s a dealer; this boat is intended to be a family heirloom that will be passed to his son’s children.

“It’ll never be for sale,” he says. “He would be very upset, yes.”