• VAT & RCD Compliance:
    What documents will be required to provide proof of the VAT status on a used vessel?

    EU residents should only use a vessel in the Community if it is VAT paid or ‘deemed’ VAT paid.

    Documentary evidence supporting this should be carried at all times as you may be asked by customs officials to provide evidence of your vessel’s VAT status, either in the UK or in other Member States.

    Documentary evidence might include:

    • original invoice or receipt

    • evidence that VAT was paid at importation

    • invoices for materials used in the construction of a 'Home-Built' vessel

    VAT, Excise and Customs helpline info:

    A registration document on its own does not prove the VAT status of the vessel, as there is no link in the UK between the registry of the vessel and the payment of VAT. If you have difficulty in providing the information, you should contact the VAT, Excise & Customs helpline on 0845 010 9000.

    Further info:

    Certain vessels that were in use as private pleasure craft prior to 1 January 1985 and were in the EU on 31 December 1992, may be deemed VAT paid under the Single Market transitional arrangements. As Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the EU later, the relevant dates for vessels in these countries are 'in use' before 1 January 1987 and moored in EU on 31 December 1994.

    After this date there were no further transitional arrangements agreed by the EU Commission for subsequent EU expansions.

  • The following documents are useful to prove the age and location of the vessel:

    For age:

    • Marine survey

    • Part 1 Registration

    • Builders certificate

    • Insurance documents

    For location:

    • Receipt for mooring

    • Receipt for harbour dues

    • Dry dock records

    If you are unable to provide any of the above for used vessels kept in the UK you should, whilst cruising within the EU, carry a Bill of Sale (if applicable and between two private individuals in the UK). Whilst this is not conclusive proof that VAT has been paid, it does indicate that the tax status is the responsibility of UK customs authorities. It is also advisable to contact the relevant authorities in the Member State you intend to visit, or their Embassy in the UK, to confirm what documentation will be required in advance of your voyage.

    When buying a used pleasure craft from any VAT registered business in the EU, you should ensure that the invoice shows separately any VAT which that business has charged to you on supply of the pleasure craft. If the invoice does not show VAT separately you may have difficulty in demonstrating that VAT has been paid. If you are buying from a business that does not charge VAT on the transaction or from a private individual in the EU and the seller states that VAT has previously been paid on the vessel, you should obtain evidence from the seller that VAT has previously been accounted for.

    Can a vessel lose its VAT paid status?

    VAT is due on the importation of any vessel from outside the EU. However, there are provisions for this VAT to be relieved when an EU VAT paid vessel returns to the EU. If an EU VAT paid vessel leaves the EU, and whilst outside the EU it is sold, the new owner will, unless eligible for one of the reliefs described in Notice 8 , be liable to pay VAT if the vessel is brought back into the EU.

  • VAT guidance from ABYA:

    The evidence of VAT-paid status will generally be an invoice, showing the VAT element and a VAT number, or similar document, such as a completion statement. Boats sold between companies should show the VAT element on the invoice. Some EU states (notably Holland) ask for the original invoice, but otherwise a certified copy kept on board should be adequate. Keep the original and a couple of certified copies safely elsewhere. It is vital to pass this information on when the boat is sold, as it may be requested by Customs officers in either the UK or elsewhere in the EU.

    In the case of home-builds and fit-outs, copies of all the major invoices should be kept and passed to subsequent owners to show VAT-paid status. Customs Notice 8 sets out further details.

    Please note that HMRC do not have copies of individual VAT invoices from boat builders, dealers or other boat sales transactions.

    HMRC National Advice Line:

    Any queries should be referred to HMRCs National Advice Line – 0845 010 9000. If they seem unsure, ask for the matter to be referred to the HMRC Unit of Expertise on Yachts or email: pleasurecraft@lcsouth.hmrc.gsi.gov.uk. Request any advice in writing, keep it with the boat’s documentation, and pass it on to any subsequent owners.

  • Recreational Craft Directive 94/25/EC, European Economic Area:

    A boat does not need to comply with the RCD if:

    • It is one of the exclusions – principally craft intended solely for racing plus other minor categories

    • It was built in the EEA prior to 16th June 1998.

    • It was in use in the EEA prior to 16th June 1998.

    • It is only visiting the EEA for reasons of tourism or in transit.

    A boat does need to comply with the RCD if it is not one of the above and if:

    • It was first placed on the EEA market after 16th June 1998

    • It was put into service in the EEA after 16th June 1998

    • It is a home built boat placed on the market within five years of completion

    • It is an experimental or racing boat being redesigned for compliance with the RCD

    The EEA includes all EU States, their overseas territories and dependencies plus Iceland Norway and Liechtenstein.