Agent’s Handbook for Registration of Undocumented Vessels

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Section 3 of 9

Vessel Registration Fees and Use Tax

3.000 Fees

Listed below are fees associated with vessels as of January 2010. Fees are subject to change; to receive fee and other industry updates from DMV subscribe to the Email Alert System on our website

Original vessel registration (other than nonresidents)
Sold in an even-numbered year$29
Sold in an odd-numbered year$49
Penalty fee for late original registration:
Sold in an even-numbered year$10
Sold in an odd-numbered year$15
Nonresident vessel registration
Sold or due in an even-numbered year$57
Sold or due in an odd-numbered year$77
Penalty fee for late original registration:
Sold or due in an even-numbered year$24
Sold or due in an odd-numbered year$29
Transfer fee (except between vessel dealers)$15
Each additional transfer$15
Penalty fee for late transfer$8
Renewal fee:
Biennial renewal or Odd-numbered year original$20
Even-numbered year (for originals only)$10
Penalty fee for late renewal
Even-numbered year original application$5
Biennial renewal/odd-numbered year original application$10
Duplicate ownership certificate$15
Duplicate certificate of number$15
Substitute sticker$15
Vessel repossession fee$15
Historical vessel plaque$20
Transfer on death beneficiary$10
Trailer fees see the Vehicle Industry Registration Procedures Manual 

3.005 Gift or No Consideration

Gifts and exchanges for no valuable consideration between individuals require a Statement of Facts (REG 256) form from the applicant. The California Certificate of Title, a Bill of Sale (REG 135) form, a Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment (REG 262) form, or a REG 256 form must contain the current market value of the vessel.

3.010 Livery and For–Hire Vessels

Use tax is due for livery and For-Hire vessels unless the applicant submits a REG 256 form, indicating that the tax on the rental receipts will be paid to the Board of Equalization.

3.015 Nonresident Military

If an applicant states he or she took possession of a vessel and was subsequently transferred to California within 90 days of that date, a Certificate of Motor Vehicle or Mobilehome Use Tax Exemption (BT 111) form may be granted by the Board of Equalization. The U.S. Soldiers and Sailors Act does not apply to vessels. Vessels cannot be registered as nonresident military.  

3.020 Original Registration Fees (CVC §9853)

When the fee for an original vessel registration is due between January 1 and December 31 of any even-numbered year, submit the application with a one-year renewal fee, in addition to any other fees due.

When the fee for an original vessel registration is due between January 1 and December 31 of any odd-numbered year, submit the two-year renewal fee, in addition to any other fees due.

A vessel sold between January1, 2006, and December 31, 2006, is assigned an expiration date of December 31, 2007, and is subject to an original registration fee plus renewal for 2007.

A vessel sold between January1, 2007, and December 31, 2007, is assigned an expiration date of December 31, 2009. Applications submitted between December 1 and December 31 will not receive a renewal notice.

3.025 Purchase of a Vessel Outside California

Legislation extending the use tax 90-day rule from July 1, 2007, through September 30, 2008, has sunset and the 365-day rule has been reinstated. Collect use tax on nonresident vessels purchased outside California on or after October 1, 2008, using the 365-day rule.

Collect use tax on nonresident vessels purchased outside California between July 1, 2007, and September 30, 2008, using the 90-day rule.

Collect use tax on nonresident vessels purchased outside California prior to July 1, 2007, using the 365-day rule.

If the vessel was purchased out of state, and sales tax or use tax was paid to another state, additional tax may be due upon registration in California. Obtain a completed REG 256 form and collect the difference in tax.

If a vessel is purchased in another state on November 1, 2009, and is first used in California on June 10, 2010, it is subject to California use tax (within 365 days of the purchase date). If the applicant paid 5 percent sales tax when it was purchased, and the vessel is now located in Sacramento, the 5 percent tax will be credited against the amount California would have charged, in this case 8.75 percent. The difference between the two figures, shown below, is what will be charged.

$1,000Purchase price
x.08758.75 percent tax rate
$87.50California tax due
– 50.00Sales/use tax paid to another state
$ 38.00Balance of tax due to California rounded to the nearest dollar.

Submit $38 for the balance due (rounded to the nearest dollar).
If you have any questions concerning a customer’s claim for exemption from use tax, contact the Board of Equalization for assistance.

3.030 Quagga/Zebra Mussel Fee for Vessels

A Quagga and Zebra Mussel Infestation Prevention Fee (Mussel Fee) is due upon original vessel registration and each renewal vessel registration. Vessels not required to be registered in California and the following registered vessels are exempt from the fee:

  • Vessels used only in marine waters.
  • Annual exempt youth group (type license code [TLC] V6).
  • Annual exempt government CF numbers (TLC V7).
  • CF numbers issued to dealers (TLC V3).
  • CF numbers (demo plate) issued to manufacturers (TLC V4).

Mussel Fee

Programming is in place to collect the Mussel Fee (generates as QMF on the GENERATED FEES screen) for vessels, as follows:

  • $8 for original vessel registration when the date fees due is in an even-numbered year.
  • $16 for:
    • Original vessel registration when the date fees due is in an odd-numbered year.
    • Vessel registration renewal.

The Mussel Fee is not subject to a late penalty fee.

Mussel Fee Paid Sticker

The “Mussel Fee Paid” sticker (see below) must be attached to the vessel as evidence of payment of the Mussel Fee. The Mussel Fee Paid sticker allows the vessel to be operated in all waters of the state unless expressly prohibited. Vessels exempt from the fee are not required to display the sticker.

Marine Waters Exemption

Marine water is defined by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) as coastal and bay waters, which includes Suisun Bay. Vessels operating in inland waterways, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, or the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta cannot claim a marine water exemption.

The owner of a vessel that is used only in marine waters must notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to claim an exemption from the original vessel registration and each time the vessel registration is renewed.

A vessel owner may notify DMV of a marine water exemption for:

  • An original application by:
  • A vessel renewal application by:
    • Checking the appropriate box on the vessel registration renewal notice.
    • Submitting a completed REG 256 stating “This vessel is used only in marine waters” in Section G.
    • Checking the appropriate box on the DMV website’s Vehicle Registration Internet Renewal (VRIR) page.
    • Renewing by phone using the department’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system and verbally notifying DMV of the exemption.

After claiming an exemption, a vessel owner may pay later the Mussel Fee for the current registration period.
Example: The vessel will begin operating in nonexempt waters.

Distribution of Mussel Fee Paid Sticker

Business partners automation (BPA) program participants will continue to follow existing procedures for ordering inventory. Order Mussel Fee Paid stickers in packages of 100 using inventory stock number 11105-5 (2015 MUSSEL FEE PAID sticker).


A new MUSSEL FEE field has been added to the DATA COLLECT screen for original and non-original vessel registration transactions with a date fees due or renewal expiration date of December 31, 2013. Keying instructions are as follows:

If the Vessel Application is forDo the following in the MUSSEL FEE fieldThis Will Generate a QMF Amount of
An original registration,Leave blank$8 or $16, based on the date fees became due or renewal date.
A renewal of registration,Leave blank$16
Operation in marine waters only (fee exempt),Key “E”$0
A substitute Mussel Fee Paid sticker,*Key “S”$16
A Mussel Fee Paid sticker after the owner claimed an exemption,*Key “Y”$16
* Can only be keyed if the registration is current and the work date is December 31, 2013, or later. (If prior to December 31, 2013, submit the application to DMV for processing).

Mussel Fee Paid Sticker Issuance
When a completed vessel transaction includes payment of the Mussel Fee, a Mussel Fee Paid sticker must be issued manually. The sticker will not be issued programmatically, displayed on the TRANSACTION INVENTORY SUMMARY screen, or be printed on the registration card.

Do not issue Mussel Fee Paid stickers to fee-exempt vessels.

The Mussel Fee Paid sticker is a “controlled” item which has a serial number at the bottom and requires the issuing office to manually log issuance information and retain copies of the log for two years.

3.035 Sale of a Vessel to a Native American

If delivery of a vessel is made to a Native American owner who resides on an Indian reservation, and the vessel will principally be used on the reservation, a Miscellaneous Certifications (REG 256A) form is required to exempt the application from use tax.

3.040 Tax Basis (CVC §9928)

Vessel use tax is based on the situs (location) county or on the registered owner’s residence county, if no situs is shown. The minimum use tax in California is 8.25 percent. Those counties and cities which assess a greater or lesser tax percentage are shown in the use tax tables in Appendix 1A.

Write or print the purchase price on the transfer document. Use tax is based on the purchase price, which includes the cost of the vessel, the motor, and all component parts of the vessel when in use. This includes all property attached to the structure which is necessary for navigation and operation of the vessel or for the comfort and convenience of the passengers and crew (such as, radio or radar equipment, anchors, lifeboat, compasses, built-in bunks, window shades and curtains, plumbing fixtures, etc.). Submit a 10 percent use tax penalty if the registration and use tax fees are not paid within 30 days of the transfer date (CVC §9862, CRTC §6591).

3.045 Taxable Transfers Between Licensed Dealers

Use tax is not due on transfers between licensed vessel dealers if the vessel is purchased for resale.

If a licensed vehicle dealer who is not an authorized vessel dealer purchases a vessel from someone other than an authorized vessel dealer or manufacturer, use tax is due. If the vehicle dealer sells the vessel, this constitutes a multiple transfer, and use tax is due for both sales.

3.050 Vessel Agents Authorized to Collect Use Tax

Licensed boat dealers, manufacturers, and yacht/ship brokers who collect sales tax on retail sales and submit it directly to the Board of Equalization, must complete a Vessel Dealer or Manufactures Sales Tax Certification (BOAT 110) form.

Include a BOAT 110 form with applications in which sales tax has been collected, unless use tax is being submitted to DMV.

3.055 Vessel Fee Exemptions (CVC §9851)

Exempt agencies are exempt from all vessel fees except fees for a duplicate/substitute certificate or sticker. Vessels owned by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways are exempt from both registration and duplicate/substitute fees.

3.060 Youth Group Exempt Vessels

Use tax is due on transfers to youth groups unless a vessel is a gift.