Buying a non-VAT boat in the EU as EU passport holders

We have received many questions and see many more questions on the various fora and facebookgroups that boil down to this ;

“How have you , as EU passport holders, bought your boat without paying VAT ?”

and the short answer is ;

“You can only do this legally if you are no longer an EU resident”

The long answer however is that it isnt all that easy or short 😉
So to save myself having to answer the same Q’s over and over again , and explaining the process multiple times , I thought it would be easier to write the whole story and process down once.

When we sold Blue Pearl in Panama we were looking for another boat and preferably a catamaran , we saw that most boats were ‘ex- charter’ boats with the VAT not paid . As we are no longer officially registered in the Netherlands or anywhere else in the EU we should be able to legally purchase a non-VAT boat. This however ran into a few practical issues as none of the sellers & brokers would sell us , as EU passport holders , a non-VAT boat without adding VAT to the bill. Even though we are officially not EU residents they were too afraid to get in trouble with their customs office and receive a VAT bill after we sailed away with our non-VAT paid boat.

So my initial reaction was “Lets start a Dutch charter company , register the company officially in The Netherlands and buy the boat on the Dutch company” , but after discussing this with a broker in Greece they told us that would be of course possible , but we had to prove that we , with the boat, arrived in The Netherlands within 6 weeks of purchase or else we would still have to pay the VAT !!

As you understand this would not work at all for us as 1) we had no plans of taking the boat back to The Netherlands and 2) there is virtually no way to take a boat on its own keel from Greece to The Netherlands in 6 weeks !

My next question to the broker was “Will a non-EU company do ?” and to that the answer was “Yes, you can buy the boat on a non-EU company , no VAT will be added and you get a 1 month transit log to get out of Greece to ‘export the boat’ and then you can return to Greece and get a 18 month transit log’

So we started a non-EU company to buy the boat , this can be done for a very reasonable price compared to having to pay VAT !

Sadly the boat we were looking for in Greece did not work out for us but we used the company we had already started and same process when we bought our Lagoon 42 in Croatia

So how we did it was :

1) start a non-EU company , we used Gibraltar as after Brexit the UK is no longer part of the EU , and we used “Form-A-Co” to arrange everything for us . Very smooth and quite easy process

2) De-register yourself from the country that you are resident in , as we are Dutch we told the Dutch government we no longer lived in the NL or the EU

3) make sure you are written into the  (for the Netherlands, not sure how this works in other countries but I assume they have something similar) “Non resident registry” and when they ask for a new address just give them the company address , they will not verify

4) get a confirmation paper (uittreksel) from this “Non resident registry” , the Dutch government will send this to the address you have told them you are at , and since this is your company address your admin can forward any and all papers they receive to whatever address . This confirmation paper (uittreksel) might come in handy later if you are checked by customs and you have to prove you really are not an EU resident

5) buy the boat on the non-EU company

6) register the boat in the company name , as we used Gibraltar for the company we registered the boat in the UK as ‘part 1’ , normally this registration takes up to 2 months *but* there is an expedition process where they can do everything in 2 days , just call the UK registration office and ask for “Premium Registration” , they will send you an invoice via email which you need to pay for the premium service and everything gets done in max 48 hours !

7) when you receive the registration you are now free to sail , but you will have to export the boat and re-import , in Croatia this was easy , go to the customs office and check out and get proof that you are exporting the boat. The seller wants this piece of paper as well

8) make a ‘power of attorney’ detailing that the owning company allows you to use the boat for xxxx to xxxx period of time sailing from xxx to xxx , we basically wrote down that ‘The Company’ allows persons X and Y with passport number xx and xx to transport the boat from Croatia to Gibraltar , sign it and stamp it with a company stamp

9) export the boat , Croatia allows you to go into international waters , turn around and sail back to the nearest port where you check in again . for us check out was Split and check in was Komiza – Vis .  At check in the police and customs want to see 1) registration 2) passports 3) power of attorney 4) proof of insurance

And now you are done and can sail on your own boat !

And before people start asking , YES we have been checked by customs in Croatia , Italy (Guardia di finanzia) and Spain (Guardia Civil) and all of them accepted our UK registration , EU passports and self written and stamped “power of attorney”. We have not yet been asked to provide proof that we are not EU residents but since we now left the EU VAT zone it is no longer a concern . If they had asked I would have handed them the official paper from the Dutch non resident registration that has a Gibraltar address on it as ‘our address’