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Publication 510

Chapter 7
Ship Passenger Tax(p37)

A tax of $3 per passenger is imposed on certain ship voyages, as explained later under Taxable situations. The tax is imposed only once for each passenger, either at the time of first embarkation or disembarkation in the United States.
The person providing the voyage (the operator of the vessel) is liable for the tax.


A voyage is the vessel's journey that includes the outward and homeward trips or passages. The voyage starts when the vessel begins to load passengers and continues until the vessel has completed at least one outward and one homeward passage. The tax may be imposed even if a passenger does not make both an outward and a homeward passage as long as the voyage begins or ends in the United States.


A passenger is an individual carried on the vessel other than the Master or a crew member or other individual engaged in the business of the vessel or its owners.

Example 1.(p37)

John Smith works as a guest lecturer. The cruise line hired him for the benefit of the passengers. Therefore, he is engaged in the business of the vessel and is not a passenger.

Example 2.(p37)

Marian Green is a travel agent. She is taking the cruise as a promotional trip to determine if she wants to offer it to her clients. She is a passenger.

Taxable situations.(p37)

There are two taxable situations. The first situation involves voyages on commercial passenger vessels extending over one or more nights. A voyage extends over one or more nights if it extends for more than 24 hours. A passenger vessel is any vessel with stateroom or berth accommodations for more than 16 passengers.
The second situation involves voyages on a commercial vessel transporting passengers engaged in gambling on the vessel beyond the territorial waters of the United States. Territorial waters of the United States are those waters within the international boundary line between the United States and any contiguous foreign country or within 3 nautical miles (3.45 statute miles) from low tide on the coastline. If passengers participate as players in any policy game or other lottery, or any other game of chance for money or other thing of value that the owner or operator of the vessel (or their employee, agent, or franchisee) conducts, sponsors, or operates, the voyage is subject to the ship passenger tax. The tax applies regardless of the duration of the voyage. A casual, friendly game of chance with other passengers that is not conducted, sponsored, or operated by the owner or operator is not gambling for determining if the voyage is subject to the ship passenger tax.


The tax does not apply when a vessel is on a voyage of less than 12 hours between 2 points in the United States or if a vessel is owned or operated by a state or local government.