Mat-Su Repeals Private Plane Tax

The Matanuska Susitna Borough Assembly has repealed a tax on privately owned airplanes.  At it’s meeting last week, Borough Assembly members unanimously approved rescinding the tax, and city airplane owners may want to take advantage of the  tax break.

The Matanuska Susitna Borough’s tax on airplanes began in 1996 as a $75 assessment on a single engine plane or a hot air balloon.

Matanuska Susitna Borough Assemblyman Darcie Salmon, who introduced the legislation on behalf of airmen’s groups, said these days,  residents of fly- in subdivisions are already paying an airplane tax through their Borough property taxes.

The Alaska Airman’s Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, as well as the Borough’s Aviation Advisory Board supported the discontinuance of the tax.  AK Airman’s Association president Adam White says the tax relief  is welcome news.

Why? Because according to White, some airplane owners in Anchorage are now considering moving their planes to avoid paying the city’s tax on airplanes.

The Mat-Su Borough has more pilots per capita than any other region in the nation, with 10 public airports and 200 private air strips to accommodate the 1,000 or more airplanes owned there,  according to a 2008  Borough Regional Aviation System Plan. The Borough sends out more than 1,200  tax bills every year, and about 60 percent of the plane owners pay the levy.   But the Borough has no way to collect delinquencies and Borough employee time is spent administering the program.

Matanuska Susitna Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss said  airplane owners that paid the tax told him the Borough doesn’t do much for them. DeVilbiss said  ” It is a tax that’s very difficult to enforce, it’s kinda like taxing flies, they move around.”

It is estimated that the repeal of the tax will cost the borough about $60,000 annually. The Borough Assembly has not made a decision yet on  how to address past overdue aircraft taxes.

But there may not be a mass exodus of Anchorage- based planes to the Valley.  The municipality of Anchorage charges $75 for a single engine plane, and $120 for multi-engine planes, according to city bill collector Janet Haines. The money is not a tax, but a registration fee that goes into the city’s general fund.  David Lundeby, director of the city’s light plane airport, Merrill Field, says the city’s general fund does not support operations there.

Merrill Field is self supporting, depending on lease fees, parking fees and commercial property rents for income, Lundeby says.

He says he’s heard no scuttlebut yet about city pilots moving their planes to the Valley.  And the long auto commute could eat up any registration fee a city plane owner would save by locating a plane in the Valley.  But White says it’s a different story by air.

White says aircraft operations costs are high, with aviation fuel at six dollars a gallon and annual inspections costing between one and ten thousand dollars a year.

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