Most of us don’t buy yachts, so you may have been surprised to learn that Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry could duck a $473,000 sales tax bill by docking his sleek new toy in Rhode Island. If so, you might also be surprised to learn that California will cut you essentially the same deal.

If you’re not in the market for a 76-foot sloop fit for a presidential wanna-be, you can duck the sales tax on a car, a motorhome or an airplane instead.

All you have to do is keep it out of state for one year after taking delivery. The deal used to be sweeter still. For 15 months in 2007 and 2008, you only had to keep that new toy out of state for 90 days. At the time, according to, Ensenada, Mexico’s marina was dubbed “the 90-day yacht club” for all the tax-dodging sailors who set tied up south of the border for three months.

Kerry, of course, decided to pay the taxes once his cross-border maneuver got into the newspapers. And he deserved every bit of bad publicity. But you have to wonder how much money California (and its cities and counties) are forgoing while buyers of new boats, new motorhomes and new airplanes avoid sales taxes.

— Jim Sweeney

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