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Old 06-03-2021, 22:07   #1
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Paying VAT in the EU and marina options


I am very interested in buying a boat in the UK, and I am thinking of making an offer. However, I would like to keep the boat in the mediterranean. For me this is not a problem, as I am a Belgian citizen and can stay as long in Europe as I like. But for the boat it is a different matter. So I have two questions.

1. The VAT situation. I went to the RYA website and and a look around in this forum as well, but still, the exact answer is not clear to me. As far as I know, when the boat is located in the UK, and UK registered with VAT paid, the only time when you could have escaped paying VAT again is to relocate the boat to an EU country before 31 Dec 2020. Since that time is now past, it looks to me that if I buy a British boat now, I will have to pay 20% VAT again. If someone has a clear and consise answer to this, that would be greatly appreciated.

2. If I am in the mediterranean, you can have the boat in EU waters for up to 18 months as long as you can prove you are not residing permanently in Europe. I live in Australia, but have a Belgian passport, so I think in principle I am OK. But maybe someone can confirm this too - the wording on websites is a clear as mud. In terms of where the boat is stationed permanently, it would be better to have it in a marina where you don't have to relocate it every 18 months. The only countries I can see where I could have the boat permanently in a marina in the med and not pay VAT is Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey because they are not EU members. Are there other countries around the med I haven't thought of? What is your experience having a boat in one of those countries?


Hugo B is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-03-2021, 09:36   #2
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Re: Paying VAT in the EU and marina options

You are Belgian (and resident in the EU), you bring the boat into EU waters, you pay VAT immediately if the Boat hasn't been paid EU-VAT before. If the boat had EU-VAT-paid status before but is now in the UK, I think upon the transaction it looses that status and you become sad.

The 18 months only is available to non-EU residents (eg Switzerland, from far away), so that could work for you from Australia. You might be able to get away with some channel island registry via a corporation or you register it in Australia. Just make sure you skip out of the EU waters every 1.5 years, but Gibraltar won't count any more.

For additional thrill, you can try to register in Belgium with your Australian address. That works too, but it might need explanation in case of a control. Specially in Spain, where many Spanish use Belgium as a flag of convenience to avoid Spanish rules for boats. Thus the Coast-Guard likes to make controls on Belgian flagged vessels.
Joh.Ghurt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-03-2021, 09:53   #3
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Re: Paying VAT in the EU and marina options

Let me summarise the mess I wrote before:
  • You buy in the UK now, no EU VAT is considered paid. (Except for grandfathered boats before 1992 or so)
  • You aren't resident of the EU (Australia), you can put a boat temporarily in EU waters - even with an EU-flag - before having to pay EU-VAT. You have to make sure you leave EU-Waters every 18 moths (a little longer, if you put her on the hard).
  • Same might apply to all the other countries. All of them want you to pay their VAT. Check with the local laws.
  • If you do this, make sure you know exactly what you need to tell the officials in case of a control. Bad wording leads to trouble.
  • The boat leaves for more than 3 years EU waters, previously paid VAT will not count any more. This isn't heavily enforced, but better not force the issue with the wrong stories.
All this has nothing to do with whether you as a person are allowed to stay in the EU. If you stay here for too long, you have to take a residency in the EU and you'll have to import the boat too, just like you have to do with your car. Here again: Loose lips sink ships.
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