Maine Eyes Repealing Plane Tax

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While it may have seemed like a good time when it was introduced, Maine legislators on both sides of the house now seem unified in getting rid of a controversial "use tax" on private aircraft. The difference between then and now is that Maine is trying to build an aerospace industry and the tax will almost certainly get in the way of that. "Maine's got a big black star over it, because we're the only state in New England that still charges this tax," Sen. Stan Gerzofsky told the Times Record. Under the law, anyone who's purchased an airplane in the previous year in a state that doesn't charge sales tax on airplanes and has it Maine for more than 20 days will be sent a bill for 5 percent of the value of the aircraft by the state. "I've seen some pretty tall sales tax bills go out to people who didn't know the law and brought their planes here to get service or to go on vacation," Gerzofsky said. But what may have brought the issue more into focus for Maine's lawmakers is the chilling effect it is having on the fledgling aerospace industry.

Earlier this year, the sprawling Brunswick Naval Air Station was closed and it's in the process of being handed over to the state, which is promoting it as an aviation business park. It's already landed Kestrel Aircraft but the tax is causing some inconvenience for the new enterprise. "The owners of Kestrel have to land their plane in Portsmouth (New Hampshire) and drive up." Portsmouth is about 80 miles from the new plant. The stirrings in the Maine legislature have the endorsement of aviation groups and the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which is trying to attract new business to the old Navy base. "There is no question that the repeal of this use tax would provide a real economic boost to Brunswick and communities all across the state by leveling the playing field in attracting new aviation businesses -- and by welcoming visiting aircraft back into Maine," Mark Kimberling, AOPA's director for state government affairs, said.