This page contains general information only. Any queries should be made to HMRC's National Advice Line – 0845 010 9000.
NOTE: Customs Notice 8 has been up-dated. Download it from www.hmrc.gov.uk - put Customs Notice 8 in the Search box - it is the first option - "Sailing your boat to and from the UK". Customs Notice 8 gives information on importing and selling your boat within the EU.
Visiting yachts intending to stay for any length of time should advise UK Customs when they arrive so the appropriate form (1331) can be completed showing the date of arrival. Temporary Importation is available for a maximum of 18 months. Without this form the vessel could become liable for VAT. Customs Notice 8 contains further details.
The Sailaway Scheme was changed on 1 January 2012. Owners may no longer arrange their own export under the scheme. However brokers and dealers may do this for them. Details here.
Boats being used in the EU should have VAT-paid status unless they are just visiting (see right). The original VAT invoice, from when the boat was either first bought within the EU or when it was imported from outside the EU, is usually sufficient evidence. A boat that is VAT-paid but is sold outside the EU loses its VAT-paid status and therefore VAT must be paid if the boat is brought back into the EU. Boats kept outside the EU for over 3 years may have to pay again. (See Customs Notice 8)
The above applies to all boats built or brought into the EU since 1 January 1985, or on the joining dates of States that have become EU Members since then. Boats already in EU Member States and territories on 1 January 1985 pre-date the requirement.
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.
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. Request any advice in writing, keep it with the boat's documentation, and pass it on to any subsequent owners.