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Boaters brace for another potential hit

Oh, the joys of boating, where have they gone?

Washington politicians, who already have tax-raided the marine industry and tax-picked the pockets of nearly every boat owner above the rowboat category, are still on the prowl for money that floats.

Currently, the $32-million in federal fuel taxes paid by boat owners to support boating safety and law enforcement will be scuttled if a Clinton Administration proposal is approved by Congress.

Another potential hit is an increase from the current $35 for a marine VHF radio license to $110.

It goes into effect April 1 unless Congress changes its mind. If it prevails, many small boat owners likely will do without the VHF and go back to CB radio communication or perhaps use car phones from their boats.

The risk is missing weather reports and updates, being unable to send a distress call to the Coast Guard or to respond to someone in distress.

Remember that 20.1 cents per gallon diesel federal tax laid on recreational boat owners Jan. 1?

It was imposed to offset the repeal of the federal luxury tax on boats, but already is a color-coded disaster.

Because the tax comes under IRS regulations, there had to be some way to make sure it was accounted for at the fuel pump.

Normally, diesel is diesel, all one color. Yet someone decided that diesel should be divided into three parts. Clear as vodka white for the kind to be taxed, red- and blue-dyed colors for the non-special tax.

Small operators, usually working with just one tank and one pump setup, found themselves with only the clear color.

Larger dealers, normally handling thousands of gallons at a time, have the facilities to supply red, blue or the clear diesel.

That left the single-tank pumpers in a bind, and also the owners of diesel-powered boats who might have to travel many miles, even days, for their specific tax-imposed clear fuel.

Boat Owners Association of the United States has proposed a sensible solution: Allow the recreational boat owners to purchase the red- or blue-dyed diesel and pay the tax directly to the fuel retailer, who would turn the proceeds over to the IRS.

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