CONCORD — Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) intended to dispel confusion about the taxation of recreational vehicles received a favorable reception from the Senate Ways and Means Committee last week.
"We have a crazy quilt of inconsistent treatment of recreational vehicles across the state," Forrester said. "Temporary and portable recreational vehicles were never meant to be taxed as real property and this bill would clarify that policy."
The confusion arose in the wake of two court decisions. In 1999, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that a truck trailer could be assessed and taxed as buildings "if by its use it: (1) is intended to be more or less permanent, not a temporary structure; (2) is more or less completely enclosed; (3) is used as a dwelling, storehouse, or shelter; and (4) is intended to remain stationary."
Two years later the Belknap County Superior Court applied this standard to eight trailers at the Hack-Ma-Tack Campground at The Weirs, when the City of Laconia taxed eight trailers on their property as buildings. When the owners of the campground refused to identify the owners of the trailers, the city billed them directly.
The owners of the campground, echoed by the New Hampshire Campground Association, contended that because the trailers, which remained on their axles with inflated tires, were intended for seasonal use, they were not taxable as buildings. The city countered that since the trailers were left at the campground year after year and embellished with decks, sheds and landscaping but not registered, they qualified as buildings, resembling summer camps more than traveling campers.
On the strength of the court decisions, the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) urged municipalities to apply the criteria strictly. Some did, but others did not.
Forrester said that she received calls from campground owners and municipal officials in different communities troubled by the inconsistent application of the law. In particular, she found that recreational vehicles parked at the 117 campgrounds in the state were treated differently by different municipal assessors. Some are taxed as real property while others are not. Some municipalities bill the owners of the recreational vehicles while others bill the owners of the campgrounds.
"I met with representatives of the campground owners as well as with officials from DRA to try to get some consistency," Forrester said.
Senate Bill 333 exempts recreational vehicles, as defined by statute, that do not remain in any one town, city or incorporated place for more than 45 days, unless stored or placed on a rented campsite, from property taxation. The statutory definition of a recreational vehicle includes motor homes, vans, pickup campers and tent trailers as well as recreational trailers of 400 square feet or less. The bill stipulates that recreational vehicles shall be deemed personal, not real, property and not liable to property taxation.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the bill last week and will reconvene the hearing today.