John Rodriguez Yachts
+44 (0)7505 485 950
Specialist Cruising and Blue Water Yacht Brokerage

VAT and RCD * Please note this is a guide and subject to change with Brexit

VAT and RCD status on a used vessel can be a complicated area.

Although ultimately it is for buyers to satisfy themselves with regard to RCD, VAT paid status and title history of a used vessel, John Rodriguez Yachts will request paperwork and on all listed yachts and present these findings as a matter of course to a prospective purchaser.

To further assist you, please see below for summaries of VAT notices from HMRC and links to additional resources regarding VAT and the RCD.

This information is provided for guidance only and confirmation or further information should be obtained from qualified sources, the relevant customs authority or in the case of the RCD, a notified body. Information is subject to change without notice and should be cross checked with the agencies concerned.

VAT summary from Customs Notice 8. (Click here for the full text)

4.2 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.

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 HMRC

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.

3.5 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.

Any queries should be referred to HMRC

RCD summary

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

The RYA have legal advice for members on both VAT and The RCD here.