Unless specifically exempted, a certificate of registration is required to operate an aircraft in Iowa (in addition to being registered with the FAA). Aircraft registration laws are defined in Iowa Code Chapter 328. A general summary follows:
- Iowa residents and businesses must register an aircraft unless it is continuously located and operated beyond the boundaries of the state.
- Nonresident owners of aircraft providing the intrastate transportation of persons or property for compensation, the furnishing of services for compensation, or intrastate transportation of merchandise in Iowa, must register aircraft with the Iowa DOT prior to conducting those operations. Other visitors are exempt from registering aircraft in Iowa as long as their aircraft are not operated or controlled in the state for more than 30 days a year.
Aircraft registration application
To register an aircraft, complete the aircraft registration form (PDF) and return it, with payment, to the Iowa DOT’s Aviation Bureau. Upon receipt and approval of an application, an Aircraft Registration Certificate will be issued. Owners of airworthy aircraft will then receive annual renewal notices.
- Aircraft Registration Application Form (#300038)
Annual registration fees are based on aircraft age, original manufactured list price, and its type of use (personal or business). A one-time 6 percent use tax on the purchase price of the aircraft is collected at the time of registration.Aircraft registration fees (and aviation fuel taxes) are deposited into a State Aviation Fund to help fund aviation programs in Iowa, such as airport development projects, the automated weather observing system (AWOS), runway markings, and windsocks.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I register my aircraft with the FAA, do I still need to register it in Iowa?
Registering your aircraft with the FAA does not meet your obligation to register it in Iowa.
Do I have to pay use tax on my aircraft?
Yes. A six percent use tax on the purchase price of an aircraft must be paid when the aircraft is registered. Payment should be sent with the Application for Aircraft Registration, along with a copy of a Bill of Sale, and fees for annual registration. Purchase price is the total consideration including cash, credit, property and services, for which an aircraft is sold.
When an aircraft is traded in for another aircraft, whether new or used, tax is due only on the difference between the purchase price and the trade-in allowance. It does not matter whether the transaction is between individuals or with a dealer, but a sales agreement must be supplied documenting details of the trade between the two parties. Brokered and third-party transactions are not eligible for use tax exemption.
Applications claiming use tax exemption must include evidence of exemption and will be forwarded to the Iowa Department of Revenue (IDR) for review. The Iowa DOT does not provide use tax guidance and questions on exemption eligibility should not delay registration of an aircraft. If use tax guidance is needed before or after an aircraft is purchased, questions may be submitted to the IDR at the following link:
Request for Tax Guidance. If it is determined at a later date that use tax was not due, aircraft owners may request a refund with IDR using
Form IA 843 Refund Return.
Who is exempt from registration requirements?
- Aircraft registered in a foreign country.
- Aircraft owned by an Iowa resident that is continually located and operated beyond the boundaries of the state.
- Aircraft owned by a government entity.
- Aircraft that is lighter than air and not engine driven (i.e., hot air balloon).
- Aircraft that is displayed in a museum.
What happens if the aircraft is not registered at the appropriate time?
A monthly penalty of 5 percent of the registration fees will begin to accrue on the first day of the month following a 30-day penalty free period.
How are registration fees determined?
When an aircraft other than a new aircraft is registered in Iowa, the registration fee shall be based upon the model year of the aircraft.
The fees are determined by the aircraft’s use as listed below.
- For all aircraft used for business and for aircraft less than 30 years old used for personal use only, the following schedule applies (rounded to the nearest whole dollar with a minimum registration fee of $35).
- Manufacturers list price X 1% = first year’s fee not to exceed $5,000.
- Manufacturers list X .75% = second year’s fee.
- Manufacturers list X .50% = third year’s fee.
- Manufacturers list X .25% = fourth year and older.
If list price information is not available for the aircraft, contact the Iowa DOT's Aviation Bureau and provide the year, make and model of the aircraft to determine an average manufacturer's list price.
Aircraft shall not be registered for a fee of less than $35 or more than $5,000.
For an aircraft that was assembled and no established manufacturer's list price exists, the cost of the aircraft kit, engine, propeller, avionics, instruments and other any additional parts will be used to determine the list price. The fee schedule shown above will be used to determine the registration fee for home-built aircraft.
- Aircraft that is 30 years old or older and is for personal use - $35.
- A helicopter used exclusively as an air ambulance service - $1,000.
- Fixed-base operator under an agreement with a public-owned airport's governing body to provide general public service - $100.
- Scheduled airline used for interstate operation - $100.
What should I do if I buy or sell an aircraft that is already registered in Iowa?
Sellers of aircraft registered in Iowa should complete the Notice of Transfer of Ownership on the aircraft registration certificate and return to the Aviation Bureau, or submit a Notice of Transfer of Ownership here: https://iowadot.seamlessdocs.com/f/AircraftNoticeofTransferofOwnership.
A purchaser of an aircraft already registered in Iowa shall submit a completed aircraft registration application and payment to the Iowa DOT's Aviation Bureau within 30 days of the purchase date. If the aircraft is currently registered and in good status with more than two months of unexpired registration status, unexpired fees shall transfer to the purchaser of the aircraft. Any delinquent registration fees and penalties must be paid at the time of transfer.
Do I receive a refund when I sell an aircraft?
If an aircraft is sold to a person in Iowa, the fees will transfer to the new owner and no refund will be given. If an aircraft, other than one used for the application of herbicides and pesticides is destroyed, dismantled or removed from the state, you must return the certificate of registration to the Iowa DOT within 30 days and request a refund for the unexpired portion of the registration fees. No refunds of less than $35 are allowed.
Do I have to register an aircraft that is not airworthy?
Yes. Use taxes on the purchase price of the aircraft must be made with the application, however, there are no registration fees due on an aircraft that is unairworthy. You will need to contact us and pay registration fees when the aircraft becomes airworthy and before it returns to flight.
More information on aircraft registration?
Registration applications and other information are available at your local airport, on our website, or by contacting the Aviation Bureau. Questions regarding aircraft registration in Iowa can be directed to the Aviation Bureau at 515-239-1697 or by email.
What is the contact information for aircraft registration?
Iowa Department of Transportation
Attn: Aircraft Registration
800 Lincoln Way
Ames, IA 50010