The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) has asked the town of Meredith to begin levying property taxes on trailers in campgrounds in accordance with a state statute (RSA 72.7) that reads “buildings, mills, wharves, ferries, toll bridges, locks and canals and aqueducts owned by private parties . . . are taxable as real estate..,” the Laconia Daily Sun reported
Speaking to the Board of Selectmen at a workshop on Monday (Oct. 15), Assessor Jim Commerford said that the issue of trailers has been a source of controversy for some time. In 1999, the New Hampshire Supreme Court established four criteria for determining when a trailer is taxable as a building: if it is “more or less permanent, not a temporary structure; is “more or less completely enclosed”; used as a “dwelling, storehouse, or shelter; ” and “intended to remain stationary.”
Three years later the city of Laconia prevailed in Belknap County Superior Court where Justice Larry Smukler ruled that eight trailers kept at Hack-Ma-Tack Campground throughout the year for between 16 years and three years not only met the test of the Supreme Court but also were “more akin to a summer camp dwelling than to a camper intended for travel.”
Commerford agreed with Town Manager Phil Warren that trailers registered with the Division of Motor Vehicles would not be liable for taxation as “buildings.” Although he had yet to determine the number of trailers in town, he noted that there are 100 sites at Meredith Wood, 140 at Clearwater Campground and 149 at Harbor Hill.
R.J. Sullivan of Harbor Hill said that a dozen of the 59 trailers at the campground were registered and exempt from tax. About half the others were between 10 and 15 years old. As a result he estimated the aggregate value of of the taxable trailers was approximately $425,000, which represented property tax revenues of some $5,000. He pointed out that owners could register their trailers for about $100 and escape the tax.
Commerford said that assessing the value of individual trailers would be challenging. He expected the assessed value would represent the replacement cost less depreciation, based on the Blue Book values.
Selectmen Peter Brothers urged Commerford to seek guidance from DRA. “Put some pressure on them,” he said. “We’ve just had a half-hour conversation and we’re all just guessing.”