Don’t Store Documents in Your Aircraft

Recently one of my clients told me he could not get his documents to me because they were in his aircraft and he was in a different location.

My immediate reaction was “That is dangerous!”

He was surprised. He told me, “But, everyone leaves their logs and other documents in their aircraft. We have to.” Now that seemed reasonable so I had to check my attitude. Where had I gotten the idea from it was dangerous?

I realized I had heard that warning many times from aviation attorneys at tax seminars. I also remember that the warning came regarding aircraft flying home from an out of state purchase location with the original copies of all the sale and closing docs and FAA registration documents.

The fact is that accidents can happen. Some aircraft never make it home. If all the documents are lost in a crash the result of the crash is magnified. It isn’t just the horrible loss of human life and the loss of the property. It can become an insurance problem as well as a tax problem.

After I thought through the whole thing I realized my warning was still valid and not unreasonable. Let’s say you are working on gathering the documents to support an exemption for California Sales and Use Tax on your aircraft. Or to make my point, let’s say you are gathering the documents the IRS is going to demand to support your business use. Furthermore you believe the FAA or your boss wants those documents to remain on the aircraft.

My suggestion is to pull out your cell phone and take pictures that are legible and immediately send them to either your own office or the tax professional that is assigned to gather the documents. In any event, get copies of all those documents and get them to a safe, secure place outside your aircraft.

The extra few minutes getting this done can save you a great deal of grief in the long run.

Aero & Marine Tax Professionals shows purchasers how to avoid aircraft tax and vessel tax in California and to make certain the full value of their next aircraft, vehicle, or vessel goes into their pocket–not the government’s. They have successfully filed hundreds of tax returns with the California State Board of Equalization. Tom Alston, CEO and owner of Aero&Marine, has also published many articles on sales and use tax and sales tax exemption. His blog can be seen at

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