U.S. Coast Guard makes boat Certificate of Documentation valid for five Years

Joyce Miller
Boating is a great way to escape from the city and the many stresses COVID has created.

Of the nation’s nearly 12 million registered recreational boats, those owners who federally document their vessels, or about 165,000 boats, will be spared the hassle of renewing their U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation every year as a result of recent rule change that now makes documentation valid for five years. The move was the result of Coast Guard cost-saving efforts and requirements set forth in the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018.

In Missouri, the change will impact approximately 13,000 boats owners across the state. The majority of those are recreational boat owners. Fewer than 3,000 of the documented boats in Missouri are classified as commercial.  

“The change to a five-year documentation period will be a time-saver,” said BoatUS Manager of Government Affairs David Kennedy. Kennedy notes the new rule also eliminates some options that were formerly available.

“Going forward, the five-year Certificate of Documentation is the only option available for recreational vessels as the 2018 Act did not allow for alternatives,” added Kennedy.

In Missouri, boat owners who choose to document their boat pay an “in lieu” of fee rather than the standard sales tax. Documented vessels also do not require a Missouri title. Boat owners can save significant money avoiding the sales tax. 

The “in-lieu” of fees are based on purchase price. So for instance, a boat ranging in purchase price from $100,000 to $150,000 would pay a fee of $2,000. Sales tax would be in excess of $5,000. 

Formerly, documentation was $26 per year and boaters could select the number of years, from one to five. The new five-year documentation cost is fixed at $130. Additional fees apply for initial documentation as well as exchanges. The Coast Guard will not issue refunds if an owner chooses to cancel documentation before its five-year expiration or if a vessel is sold during the renewal period.

Boat owners generally choose to federally document vessels with the U.S. Coast Guard versus the more common practice of state registration, for one of two reasons: the boat was purchased with a bank loan and the lender required it or the owner plans to travel beyond U.S. waters. A Certificate of Documentation is internationally recognized and makes it easier for American vessels to enter and leave foreign ports.

Documented vessels must also be a minimum of 5 net tons, which is about the size of a 26-foot boat. 

For more information on documentation go to BoatUS.com/Documentation.