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Court Nixes County Tax On Whitewater Rafters

(CN) - The Tennessee Court of Appeals struck down a county tax levied on people who pay for guided whitewater rafting trips, because the tax conflicts with the Maritime Transportation Security Act.

The court first established that High Country Adventures, a commercial outfitter operating on the Ocoee River, has standing to sue Polk County, Tenn., over the tax. Because the company shoulders the liability if clients don't pay, it has a stake in taking on the tax. The rafting company paid more than $30,500 under protest for April through October 2001.

Judge Lee said the tax is invalid, because the Maritime Transportation Security Act bars counties and states from taxing any vessels operating on navigable U.S. waters.

The court rejected the county's claim that the Ocoee River doesn't qualify as "navigable water" covered by the Act, and that rafts aren't considered "vessels."

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