Unless the yacht is a megayacht, it is unlikely to have been tracked - at least not permanently. So if the sales paperwork is done in an EU country it is unlikely to ever be questioned.
Don't be tempted to put on that paperwork something which is untrue - like the yacht is somewhere where it is not. Falsifying paperwork is a very serious offence and will land you jail time, where as not having paid VAT when you should have done, will probably get you a small fine on top of the VAT due.
VAT is the responsibility of the person selling the boat if the transaction is taking place in the EU. So if at a later date you do sell the boat inside the EU as a VAT paid boat, it will be you who the authorities will come to for the VAT due if what you are buying
now is considered to be outside of the EU and you never paid VAT on reimport.
But the chances of them ever finding out are pretty low (unless you have been obviously blagging about it here and your name and yacht name have been easy to find).
Legally book keeping for VAT needs only be kept for 6 years and the seller is liable.
I have been sailing my UK registered yacht in the Med (France and Spain) for 6 years now. Just once I have been asked for my passport (UK). This was by Spanish customs who came to my boat when I was tied up in a marina I was visiting. It seemed they had picked me out for some reason. They also wanted to see the registration
document (but the marina had that as is normal practice for a passing yacht).
Never have I been asked for any proof of VAT nor the sales document for my boat. All marinas
will want to see the original registration
document for the boat. They will keep it for a short stay to make sure you pay before leaving. Occasionally they will want to see proof of third party insurance
. In particular my home marina always asks for that at each yearly renewal of the slip rental.
Many times in the Golf de Leon/Costa Brava I have been called up on VHF
and asked where I am coming from, where I am going to, how many people on board, registration number and LOA
. Once I was followed by a French customs helicopter for a good 10 minutes at Spanish/French border. I am sure those guys have good sound equipment
. The moment I said to a crew mate I was going to call them up on the VHF
and ask if they could take some pictures for us they veered off at high speed. I guess if I had said something suspicous they would have had the high speed customs cutter
called up from Port Vendres.
I was nearly rammed two customs cutters when sailing into Collioure. One of them was French, the other Spanish and they did not give way/change course until the very last moment. But they did not take any interest in me after that and turned round and went elsewhere.
Note that if your yacht is EU registered, then generally speaking unless there is a blatant VAT fraud, customs will consider it to be the responsibility of the country of registration to deal with the VAT - even more so if your EU passport is from the same EU country as the yacht's registration.
I would strongly suggest you register it somewhere in the EU, preferably, if possible, in the country where you are a citizen (i.e. have a passport). Some countries require you to be resident in order to be able to register, others will do it if you are a citizen of that country without being resident, and I think the Belgiums will do it for whoever asks (and pays the fee).
The usual deal when visiting a marina around here is that as you tie up you give the guy your registration document who will take it to the capitainerie.
One time it was snatched out of the guy's hand by a gust of wind
and dropped into the water
. To the greate pleasure of the ladies of our crew, he immediately stripped off and jumped in after it! However is sunk too quickly in 11m of water
. The marina called out the local diving school
operator and had them go after it.