CONCORD — The Municipal and County Government Committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives this week unanimously amended a bill intended to clarify the taxation of recreational vehicles. The amendment would spare Laconia from losing $2 million of assessed valuation, foregoing $220,000 in property tax revenue and adding a dime to its tax rate.
Senate Bill 333, as introduced by Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), would exempt from property taxation recreational vehicles remaining in any one city, town or unincorporated place for fewer than 45 days as well as recreational vehicles stored or placed on a rented campsite at a recreational campground or camping park no matter for how long.
Forrester introduced the bill at the request of the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association to mend what she called "a crazy quilt" by which recreational vehicles are treated differently by different cities and towns. Some are taxed as real estate while others are not. Some municipalities bill the owners of the recreational vehicles while others, unable to identify the owners, bill the campground owners.
However, Laconia Assessor Jon Duhamel discovered that there are more than 400 recreational vehicles sitting year-around on a dozen campgrounds that the city has taxed for years, but would become exempt from property tax if the bill were enacted as written.
When the bill reached the House, city officials voiced their concerns about the erosion of the city's tax base, prompting the Municipal and County Government Committee to seek a formula that would ensure consistent treatment of recreational vehicles, spare campground owners responsibility for collecting or paying taxes and safeguard the interests of municipalities.
The amendment, which the committee adopted 19-0, exempts only those recreational vehicles with a maximum width of eight-feet, six-inches, registered as motor vehicles, bearing a current number plate and located at a campground from property taxation. In other words, so-called "park models," wider than eight-feet, six-inches that cannot be transported without a special permit, and unregistered recreational vehicles less than eight-feet, six inches in width, would be taxed as real estate.
Before April 1 each year campground owners would be required to provide municipal assessors with the name and address of the owners of recreational vehicles at their campgrounds and to identify those exempt from property taxation. Campground owners would not be responsible for the payment of any taxes imposed on recreational vehicles at their facilities.
City Manager Scott Myers said that the amendment mirrors the practice the city has followed since 1999, when the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that trailers meeting certain criteria should be taxed as real estate. He said that the amendment addresses the major issues of concern to both the city and campground owners.
Since the bill bears on taxation, if it passes the House it could be referred to the Ways and Means Committee, which will report it back to the House for a second vote.
If the amended bill clears these hurdles, the Senate, which adopted the bill in its original form, will be asked to concur with the bill as amended by the House or to request a committee of conference to resolve the differences between the two chambers.
"We still have a way to go," Myers remarked.