I am not a tax lawyer but have been involved in boats sales before and also in the genral consignment of goods europe
wide and abroad.
Firstly VAT is only capable of being reclaimed ( in fact it is not effectively charged at all) if a chargable entity is selling the goods to you. ( ie a VAT registered company) and it is being exported, ( or you are VAT registered)
It matters not that the goods are new or second hand. Hence a VAT registered dealer ( not a broker) selling you the goods has to charge VAT to you , if you are exporting it then that VAT is either not paid ( or is reclaimed from customs, which is just an anti avoidance situation).
For a secondhand boat or any boat being sold by a non chargable entity, ie persons or non-VAT registered companies, then VAT is inherent in the price
and is not recoverable under any circumstances. ( im simplifying here ).
SO where the boat is secondhand and the person selling it is not charging
VAT then there no recovery in any circumstance.
As to VAT and boats exported outside the EU. This is covered undere a section of VAT law known as temporary returned goods relief. In essence as long as the goods do not change hands outside the EU no VAT is due or re-import. Note that goods really dont have VAT status, VAT is a transactions charge and is due on all sales and purchase
and export events/transactions unless covered by reliefs.
There is no limit as to whwn VAT expires when the goods are abroad, the issue is dealt with on a case by case basis ( for example oil
rigs returning after 15 years didnt pay VAT). There is a RGR form that unpon export the customs can stamp to show that you are the exporting owner and hence the re-importer.
Any major improvment or significant modification to the goods could make it viable for VAT
just to see the issues consider this
Boat New buyer not VAT registered -> pays VAT to seller ( Vat registered).
Boat now secondhand sells to private buyer ( non vat regstered seller and buyer) -> No VAT
Boat is sold by private seller to VAT registered buyer. ( since no VAT no VAt is reclaimed).
Boat then sold by registered dealer to private buyer. VAT charged on sale
value. ( or using margin scheme, VAT is paid by the dealer on the margin betwwen purchase and sale
This is why most secondhand boat sales are brokered