Northampton supervisor questions why farm equipment is taxed more than boats

June 24, 2020
Eastern Shore Agriculture wheat combine

By Ted Shockley


In Northampton County, farm machinery is taxed at a higher rate than a pleasure boat. So farmers pay more taxes on a tractor than a yacht owner pays on a vessel.

That drew a question during a meeting Tuesday night from Supervisor Betsy Mapp, who wondered why the rates weren’t the same.

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What followed was a discussion on the economics of attracting pleasure boaters, long a county priority.

Raise the tax rate too high, and they’ll look somewhere else, said Supervisor John Coker. And they’ll take their spending money with them.

Boats in Northampton County are taxed at a rate of 99 cents per assessed $100 in valuation. Farm machinery is taxed at $1.20 per $100.

It goes up from there — the tax rate for heavy construction machinery is $2.86 per $100.

Coker said he knows boat owners in Cape Charles who evade the rate altogether by parking their boats elsewhere.

He also said there is “a lot of farm machinery” in the county registered out of state, or tucked away in sheds, so that taxes can be avoided.

Supervisors did not further discuss raising or lowering boat taxes or farm machinery taxes, but Mapp remained perplexed about why they would be different.

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“I don’t get that,” she said.


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