Some Frequently Asked Questions about The temporary importation of private non-EU vessels for use in the European Union
What are the basics?
Non-EU vessels which are intended for re-export may be temporarily be brought into and used for private purposes in the EU, or more strictly in the "customs territory of the Community", (which includes our territorial waters) without customs duties or Value Added Tax (VAT) needing to be paid. But this can only be done by persons who are not EU residents - in official terms - by people who are "established outside that territory". This facility is thus NOT available to EU residents.
The boats concerned have to be placed under the "temporary importation procedure" (TI) with Customs and the period of use in the EU is limited in time. When the time is up the boat has to leave, in official jargon this period is called "the period of discharge". The re-exportation of the goods from the customs territory of the Community is the usual way of ending or "discharging" a temporary importation procedure. If the boat does not leave before the end of that time then customs duty and VAT become due.
A boat is temporarily imported into the EU and not into one of the constituent Member States. Thus it can move from one Member State to another with no further customs formalities during the 18 month period allowed.
It needs to emphasised that the 18 month TI period only applies to privately owned, non-EU yachts and sailed by non-EU owners or skippers. If an EU owner or skipper sails a non-EU registered boat, then the TI period is only 1 month.
How can a yacht be placed under TI?
Just crossing the frontier of the customs territory of the Community is in general sufficient. But, you may be required to use a route specified by customs and they may require you to make an oral or written customs declaration. It is possible they may require the provision of some kind of security or guarantee to cover the payment of the customs duties and VAT that become due if the boat does not leave the EU.
How long can the yacht stay in the EU?
Normally, you can use the vessel in the EU for one and a half years. In technical terms, the period for discharge for privately used means of sea and inland waterway transport is 18 months. This is laid down in Article 562(e) of the implementing provisions of the Customs Code. If the boat is "laid up" ("put in bond") for a time the possibility exists for not counting the period of non-use (see below).
Can the 18 months be extended if the yacht is not used? You may want to go home for Christmas!
Yes, the eighteen month period may be extended for the time during which the yacht is not used. Article 553(2) second sub-paragraph of the implementing provisions of the Customs Code allows for this. However, the maximum overall period during which the yacht can remain in the EU is 24 months (Article 140(2) of the Customs Code).
What Other Restrictions Are There?
Yachts may be temporarily imported for private use only. Under temporary importation a yacht may not be hired, sold or lent to a resident of the EU. Immediate relatives of the owner may use the boat if they are resident outside of the EU. The boat may be used occasionally by a EU resident, when acting on behalf of the owner and when the owner is himself/herself in the EU.
The VAT relief also applies to the importation of spare parts and accessories to effect repairs or maintenance. This relief only applies to yachts registered outside the EU and owned by a non-EU resident.
Does the 18 month Rule apply to All Non-EU Registered Boats?
Not if the owner is resident in the EU. In this case the period of TI is just one month.
Yachts registered in EEA countries have six months sailing and six months in bond.
Can you have another period of Temporary Importation? How long must you wait?
Yes, you are not limited to a single period of temporary import. You can sail the yacht out of the EU and when you came back again for another holiday a new period of temporary importation can begin. The customs rules do not provide for a "minimum period" during which the goods must remain outside of the customs territory of the EU. It is wise to obtain documentary evidence that time has been spent outside the EU. Leaving for a very short time and returning to the same country may be regarded as an abuse of this regulation and is best avoided.
Where can you find the legal texts?
The legal provisions on temporary importation are found in:
Articles 137 to 144 of the Customs Code (Council Regulation (EEC) N° 2913/92 of 12 October 1992 establishing the Community Customs); NB Be careful if you want to print this as the whole of the Code is 102 pages long - print using the menu "File" and select the pages you want) and in particular Articles 553 to 562 of the implementing provisions of the Customs Code. (Commission Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93 of 2 July 1993) NB Be careful if you want to print from this as the implementing provisions is 751 pages long! - print using the menu "File" and select the pages you want).
This is only a simple explanation of the law and is not comprehensive.
© European Communities, 1995-2003
Expanded by Noonsite August 2013.
(May 2013): Not all Customs Authorities are familiar with the above. There have been cases of boats being impounded in Portugal and charged VAT by Customs authorities who do not recognise that the U.K.Channel Islands are outside the EU and who clearly believe that 18 months is the TI limit, and you cannot exit and then re-enter the EU to re-set the TI clock. Be wary.
Standard % Rates of VAT in EU Member States:
Belgium 21 Bulgaria 20 Croatia 25 Cyprus 18 Czech Republic 21 Denmark 25 Estonia 20 Finland 24 Germany 19 Greece 23 France 19.6 Ireland 23 Italy 22 Latvia 21 Lithuania 21 Luxemburg 15 Hungary 27 Malta 18 Netherlands 21 Austria 20 Poland 23 Portugal 23 Romania 24 Slovenia 22 Slovakia 20 Finland 22 Sweden 25 United Kingdom 20
Denmark: The Faeroe Islands and Greenland are not part of the European Union; consequently, VAT is not applicable on these territories.
Spain: For VAT purposes, the country does not include the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla.
It has also been reported (October 2013) that if choosing to import your boat into Europe in Spain, the valuation of the boat is based on the "blue book" price (or if your boat is not listed, then listed sale price of your model boat or similar found on the internet).The procedure is then to take 10% of that price and charge VAT/IVA on that. So for example, if your boat is valued at $50,000 then you pay VAT/IVA on $5,000.
France: In the overseas departments (DOM), but not French Guiana, a standard rate of 8.5% is applicable.
Monaco: Goods and services supplied to or from the Principality of Monaco are regarded as having been supplied to or from France.
Portugal: The standard rate is 22% in Madeira and 16% in the Azores.
Finland: The Aaland islands are is not part of the European Union.
Last updated October 2013.
Country by Country information on VAT: