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Old 04-02-2007, 13:21   #1
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Red tape for buying boat in USA

Hi - I'm new to this forum so this is my first post. Hope I do it right! My husband and I are planning to purchase a boat in Florida or Caribbean as we plan to sail/motor this area late 2007.

We are currently investigating which boat we want to buy as we still haven't decided whether to buy sail (spent 4 years sailing the Pacific in a Grainger Sailing Catamaran) or motor.

However, my question is: can anyone advise me or direct me to a web site that covers the legalities of us purchasing a boat in Florida/Caribbean. We are NZ citizens but hold British Passports.

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Old 04-02-2007, 13:50   #2

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No web site but the process is fairly simple.

As "aliens" you cannot have a USCG federally documented vessel, it simply isn't allowed. That means you can purchase the boat under NZ or British laws and register it at home, and apply for a cruising permit here. Or, if you have a US address, you can buy it and register it with any state as a motor vehicle. Most of our states consider a sailboat with a permanently installed engine to be the same as a car--you buy it and register it. You will have to pay taxes based on the residency if you are state residents (sales tax, property tax, use tax, which one varies in each jurisdiction) or if the boat remains in that state for more than a set number of days (typically 90 days, that also varies and may be as little as 30 days). Florida, like most states, posts their vehicle registration and tax regulations on the web in detail.

So, first you have to decide on where and whether you are residents or domiciled in any state, or whether you want to go the "cruising permit" route which will place shorter limits on your stay--as will any visa restrictions.

If the boat is British flagged you enjoy some odd benefits, like being able to cruise up into the Mississippi River without coming through US Customs. Apparently a legacy of the treaty ending our War of 1812 against the UK.<G>

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Old 13-02-2007, 09:31   #3
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You can try to post this on Yacht Charters | Discount sailboat charters | Charter yacht ownership | There are many charter boat owners on this site and the moderator of the site is charter boat owner and broker. His name is Michel Benarrosh and his is very informative.
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Old 21-02-2007, 22:51   #4
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If you leave Florida within the 90 days and return as a foreign flagged vessel on a USA cruising licence you are free from the FL taxes.

What then happens is you must pay import duty when you get home, worse still as due nationals you will probably have to pay it twice, I am dual UK/AUS and can't go to Oz on a UK ship without paying Oz duty, and vic versa for UK and Oz registered ship. Maybe you'll get lucky with NZ!
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Old 22-02-2007, 05:23   #5
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ANYONE can purchase a Federally Documented Vessel in the United States but only American citizens can continue to keep it reistered that way.

I personally know several different Alien Life-Forms who have come to the US Virgin Islands and purchased American built & documented yachts. The buyer and seller (or broker) simply drive to the airport office of the DPNR together, sign a form, pay a few bucks and walk out with new registration & title in hand. People from Puerto Rico come over here to register their boats because it's so easy... and cheap.

Furthermore - it is my understanding that, due to the free trade agreement between Australia and the United States, there is no longer import duty applied when bringing a US made vessel into Australia. Just be sure to bring documentation showing the vessel was built in the US or made with US supplied materials.

Plenty of boats for sale around here.

A great resource is Boat and Yacht Sales, Buy Boats and Yachts - for comparison shopping.

Happy Hunting,

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Old 22-02-2007, 14:31   #6
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In OZ NAFTA only saves you the duty of 5%, the GST of 10% applies regardless.
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Old 19-06-2008, 15:11   #7
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Thanks for all the advise

We have just received our 10 yr multiple entry visa and have booked our tickets for October '08. Thanks heaps for your advise. I look forward to posting many more questions when I arrive!
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Old 19-06-2008, 15:19   #8
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You can own and skipper a US documented vessel. You just have to do it through the device of a a US corporation. Most lawyers in Delaware can do this for you.

Rick I
Toronto in summer, Bahamas in winter.
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red tape

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