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It seems like there are two options when buying a boat in California as a non-resident:

  • pay California sales/use tax
  • pay a lawyer to perform an offshore delivery and pay sales/use tax in the state of residency (Washington in this case)

When the tax rates are the same (or higher in the state of residency) are there any reasons to pay taxes in the state of residency vs. paying in California?

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It doesn't matter at all. If you don't pay sales tax - you have to pay use tax. If the CA sales tax is lower than WA - your use tax would cover the difference.

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