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      02-24-2009, 08:59 AM   #1
Big Windy
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Military: CA Initial Vehicle Registration Information from Overseas

Warning: if you are not military or a CA resident who owns a new BMW overseas, don't bother reading will be a total waste of your time


I am in the process of shipping my M3 from Germany to CA and I have learned a lot of information that will be helpful to other expats or military members who are bringing their M3 stateside and are seeking CA registration/avoiding use taxes. Let me start by saying that this applies to you in two situations:

1) you are on orders to a duty station in California and are planning to register your car in CA (you must have purchased the M3 prior to coming down on orders). The exemption is: "Military Personnel"

2) you are a resident of CA and are on orders outside of California, yet still plan to register the car there (you must have owned the car outside CA for 90 days or more). The exemption is: "California Resident Who Takes Possession Out of State"

Now, in case you did not know, the California Board of Equalization (BOE) is what levies Excise/Use tax on a vehicle at the time of initial registration. It does not come directly from the DMV, as it does in many other states. Because of this, you must apply for an exemption through the BOE, not the DMV.

Before going further, here is a link to the BOE's exemption publication which outlines the eligibility criteria and important information:

Also, here is an important link at the CA DMV's website for vehicles never registered in CA before:

So, the first thing you need to do is go to the DMV to get your registration paperwork. Once you have the paperwork in hand, you need to fill out a BOE Form 106 to detail the reason for your exemption. You will submit the BOE 106 with certain parts of your registration paperwork by mail to the Board of Equalization. This takes two weeks...but once your paperwork is reviewed, they will approve it and send it back to you with an exemption certificate. You then go back to the DMV with the exemption certificate to register your car, free of taxes!

Be aware that there is a very large IF to this whole process: all initial registrations require a smog check done by an authorized smog station. This means that your M3 will have to come to CA for a smog is not possible to have it shipped to your duty station elsewhere and then register it by proxy or through power of attorney. The DMV website has a list of certain authorized places and, of course, none are outside CA. This is definitely the biggest drawback to the entire procedure. Still, if you are looking at 6-8% taxes on your M3 in your new state, it is going to be cheaper to have it shipped from CA than to pay your new DMV. If you're on orders to CA from OCONUS, you're in luck, because you're not going to have to worry about it at all!

There are other exemptions that are listed in the BOE form, so it is worth a read. If you sell your M3 within your family, that is also another way to avoid taxes. For all you military out there who are overseas, CA provides a great way to avoid paying sales tax on your new BMW when you come back stateside.

Hopefully someone else out there will be in a similar situation one day and this info will be useful...this thread is intended as a reference, so if you have any knowledge or relevant experiences, please post!


OT: E90M3CDFR and I have been petitioning Jason and Mark for some type of a US spec expatriate sub-forum for military and other people with US spec M3s overseas, but because those PMs went unanswered, I posted this here because the info is CA specific. If you are a US spec owner overseas, send some PMs to Jason and Mark and try to get them to build a new sub-forum for us in the regional section...there are plenty of US spec issues that we deal with overseas to justify our own section!
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      02-28-2009, 10:08 PM   #2
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Big, I see you link to the old BOE brochure. The new one requires 1 year out of state not 90 days. They closed this loophole becausep eople were buying boats and keeping them in Ensenada for 90 days to avoid use tax. If it's changed recently, let me know, I have an inbound 335i from Mil Sales Spain. Thanks ! Doc
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