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Old 21-03-2012, 06:50   #46
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Talking Re: How to Avoid Australian GST as US Citizen Buying Boat in the US and Moving to AUS

Hi
This is my first post here. I have been reading the forum for several months trying to work out what sort of boat to buy. As a matter of coincidence, my broker recently offered me a prototype FastCat (see the long thread by SettingSail2009 in this forum).*
When not dreaming of buying a cat and sailing off around the world I am director of an international freight forwarding and customs broking company and have had a bit of experience in this area.
There are lots of areas of confusion so I will try to cover the basics
1. Import Duty and GST are quite different things. In a nutshell while it may be possible to avoid import duty, avoiding GST is much harder (and I mean legally avoiding)
2. The 12 month rule is the source of most confusion. The rules say you can bring in "personal effects" free of both duty and GST. In order to qualify, these items must have been owned and used by you for 12 months, and you may be asked to substantiate this by producing a receipt. However it is important to note that certain items (notably boats and cars) do not qualify as personal effects whether you sail them in or put them in a container so the 12 month rule does not apply to yachts. A windsurfer or inflatable might be a personal effect, a 30' yacht is not.
3. The dutiable value is whatever customs says it is. Their first preference is to use the actual purchase price, verified by a receipt, with a reasonable allowance for depreciation. They have used this rule for every boat import I have been involved with and they are generally very reasonable. However they are not idiots and if you produce a receipt which is obviously less than a reasonable market value then they will demand a valuation and you will end up paying duty on the Aus market price rather than the usually lower overseas price.
3. Customs duty is generally 5%. interestingly boats where the primary means of propulsion is engine come in under a different tariff code than those driven by wind (even if they have auxiliary propulsion systems). The tariff code for a sailing yacht is actually duty-free. Depends whether your customs broker describes it as a motor boat with sails or a sail boat with motors!
4. GST is calculated as 10% on the dutiable value of the boat, plus import duty if any, plus the cost of freight, plus the cost of insurance.
5. If you sail the boat under your own steam then a reasonable allowance is calculated by customs for the cost of crew, food, fuel, intermediate stops etc. However I recently customs-cleared a Bavaria 46 purchased in Europe and sailed to Aus, and the customs allowance for the cost of "freight" was less than 10 euro!!!
6. Yes you unfortunately do need a licence to import refrigerant gases into Australia. It is a separate gov't department from customs. The licence costs $400 plus a levy depending on the amount of refrigerant in fridges, freezers, aircon etc. However the levy is usually only a few cents for the tiny volumes involved. Importantly this licence can take up to 6 weeks to obtain so you are best to get this arranged early. You may be held in a quarantine port until this licence is issued.
7. Be very careful about vehicle (and this includes boat trailers) imports. Anything that can be driven or towed on a road needs import approval from the federal transport department. Customs will not release a shipment without this approval from Canberra, it can take up to 2 months, you will be hit by storage charges on the wharf at anything up to $1000 a day until you get the document. Once you get it cleared by customs, you still can't take it on the road until the relevant state government transport department has registered it. This is where the 30 year rule comes in to play. Canberra doesn't care how old the vehicle is but the state governments do. Any vehicle older than 30 years can get registered even if it has the steering wheel on the wrong (left) side. Anything newer has to be converted to right hand drive before it can be registered.
8. Anything bought from a commercial entity in Australia will have GST in the price. If the boat is to be exported I believe you have a 2 month window in which you can leave the country and reclaim the GST after purchase. I also believe that Seawind and others can sell a boat free of GST if they know it is being exported within the time limit.

There are lots of customs brokers in the country. Advice is generally free but when it comes to the actual process, my (admittedly biased) opinion is that a few hundred dollars for an expert customs clearance is a good investment to avoid the expensive pitfalls.
Of course if you are just passing through then none of this applies.

Hope this helps. If anyone wants further info you can PM me and I can send the relevant fact sheets.

In the meantime, can someone tell me if a monohull or multihull is better... (only joking!)
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Old 21-03-2012, 08:32   #47
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Re: How to Avoid Australian GST as US Citizen Buying Boat in the US and Moving to AUS

Coops2, welcome aboard and nice (& informative) first post! Aside form the good factual info, I can take the following interesting bits.

Toss the motor and fridge at sea and ease your import burden!
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Old 21-03-2012, 13:08   #48
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Re: How to Avoid Australian GST as US Citizen Buying Boat in the US and Moving to AUS

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Originally Posted by olaf hart View Post
If you think paying an extra 10% of the US purchase price is a big deal, you probably havn't looked at all the other costs of keeping and maintaining a boat in Oz.
Just galling to pay sales tax in the US and then sales tax in AUS as well, which is what we're probably looking at. Not like we bought the boat twice.

What are some of the major costs maintenance-wise that are very different from other countries?
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Old 21-03-2012, 13:09   #49
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Re: How to Avoid Australian GST as US Citizen Buying Boat in the US and Moving to AUS

That was an extremely informative post Coops2. Thanks a lot.
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Old 21-03-2012, 16:24   #50
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Re: How to Avoid Australian GST as US Citizen Buying Boat in the US and Moving to AUS

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Originally Posted by jm21 View Post
Just galling to pay sales tax in the US and then sales tax in AUS as well, which is what we're probably looking at. Not like we bought the boat twice.

What are some of the major costs maintenance-wise that are very different from other countries?
Just be grateful you don't live in the EU. I get to enjoy 5% customs and then 25% VAT on purchases in Sweden.
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