By Mel.Dillard - 3 Jul 2020
We currently have our boat in Cartagena, Spain after an Atlantic Crossing last spring. We returned to the US over the winter due to Schengen and then the pandemic...
In late May, it was announced that the Prime Minister of Spain would be opening the country back up to non-EU citizens July 1st. So we booked our return flight for July 1st. But then the day before we were to fly out the EU announced a travel ban on all US citizens. We went ahead to the airport with our letter from the marina showing our boat was berthed there and the document from the EU stating the exceptions to the ban, in particular force majeure. We tried to plead our case but American Airlines would not let us board the plane. They said we had to have a letter from the Spanish Government specifically giving us permission to enter the country. We tried pleading our case with the Spanish Consulate but they said NO. So - we cannot retrieve our boat and yet the time for the TI of our boat will be expiring soon. The EU says you can receive an extension if you apply through the local customs office. But you cannot do that if you are an American because you have to have a special digital code that only Spanish people can obtain. The appeal has to be applied for online. A true Catch 22. You cannot leave but we are going to charge you because you did not leave. I have tried several ways to get the appeal filed on line: the Spanish Consulate, the US Embassy in Madrid, and an agent that works in that area of Spain. No luck yet. I am now looking into a Spanish atty. Is anyone else having this much trouble? We are contemplating having someone sail our boat to Gibraltar and flying there to pick her up. The question is will we be allowed to get fuel and provisions along to the way to a non-EU country, such as Turkey. Or because of our nationality will be be denied all services? We would appreciate any comments from folks in the same situation. Thanks!
By Jean.Fuller - 9 Jul 2020
We are in the same situation, having left our boat in Scotland for the winter. Our TI ran out in June. We can return to the UK with a two week quarantine but we are not allowed to sail into another any non-EU customs union countries nearby (i.e. Norway or Faroe Islands). We are put in an impossible situation.
We just cancelled our tickets to return to Scotland, thinking that if we leave the boat laid up at least we are not violating "stopping the clock" while the boat was "overwintering" which says no one must live on or operate the boat.
By Mel.Dillard - 9 Jul 2020
I checked with the OCC Port Captain for Cartagena, Spain regarding putting the boat in the boatyard next door to the marina in order to "stop" the clock. She advised that putting the boat on the hard would be unacceptable and WOULD NOT stop the TI clock. I don't know if different countries interpret the requirements differently? What I am being told is that we MUST move our boat out of EU water or pay the VAT - no exceptions. We were advised by both the marina and the Spanish Consulate in Chicago that we should hire an EU captain to move our boat. Needless to say that solution, in our estimation, is both risky and very costly. But that is where we are at... Sad state of affairs.
By Jean.Fuller - 9 Jul 2020
I am sorry to hear that. We cruised in the Med from 1998 -2004 and there were no clear rules at that time but we were able to place our boat in bond while in Sitges (south of Barcelona) but each country and region seem to have their own interpretation of the rules. I did do some research last summer and learned that France does not allow for stopping the clock but I do not specifically remember reading anything about Spain. Noonsite has a good summary under "European Union" (about 15 pages with some links to other sites). I have cut and paste some of the information below, if you have not already seen it.
Can the 18 months be extended if the yacht is not used? You may want to go home for Christmas!
Yes, as noted above, the eighteen month period may be extended for the time during which the yacht is not used. The EU Customs Code allows for this. However, the maximum overall period during which the yacht can remain in the EU is 24 months.
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 an 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. If you are shipping many items from outside the EU, it is advisable to use the services of an import agent who can deal with all the paperwork and duty calculations on your behalf.
Does the 18 month Rule apply to All Non-EU Registered Boats?
Not if the owner is resident in the EU.
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 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.
Whilst it is not required to proceed to a customs office in order to make a declaration of entry, it is perhaps 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:-
© European Communities, 1995-2003, 2016
This is only a simple explanation of the law and is not comprehensive and some of the rules have been amended since the original rules were drawn up. Noonsite does its best to keep this information updated.
Not all Customs Authorities are familiar with the above. There have been cases of boats being impounded in Portugal in 2013 and charged VAT by Customs authorities who do not recognise that the U.K. Channel Islands are outside the EU and its Customs area, and who also clearly believe that one 18 month period is the TI limit, and you cannot exit and then re-enter the EU to re-set the TI clock. So be wary.
Although Gibraltar is outside the EU VAT customs area, it is part of the EU and the Temporary Importation (TI) clock for non-EU boats starts on entry to the port. Gibraltar should therefore not be relied on to re-set the TI clock.
This is the ‘official’ position. In practice, some Customs offices regard visiting Gibraltar as being outside the EU and regard the TI ‘clock’ as being re-set after a visit there.
When is VAT Payable?
VAT is due:-
If a non-EU boat remains in the EU beyond its Temporary Importation relief period (maximum 2 years if part of it is in bond).
If a non-EU boat is sold within the EU.
If a boat is used by an EU resident.
If a VAT-paid boat leaves the EU for more than 3 years and is not returned by the same owner or has more than running repairs done while away.