Buying a Yacht or Jet in the UK or EU: What You Need to Know
10 June, 2021
For the uninitiated, the process of buying a yacht or jet anywhere in the world – then working out what tax and duty might be due in different jurisdictions – seems complicated enough. Then add Brexit into the mix and it can suddenly become even more complex. However, Brexit does bring silver linings, at least for some UK yacht and jet owners.
Providing their yachts and jets are privately owned and that everything is structured correctly, many UK owners who typically cruise in the Mediterranean or fly into the EU will now find that they no longer have to pay import VAT on their assets. As James Jaffa, partner at Jaffa & Co, observed at Quaynote’s recent online conference, The Future for Superyachts, Business Jets & Luxury Property, this can potentially mean that for these UK owners, “operating their superyacht has become 20% cheaper.”
This scenario can be compared, if you like, to a Cayman Islands ownership structure that some owners might have chosen pre-Brexit. The critical component is that the yacht or aircraft meets the conditions of Temporary Admission (TA). Where yachts are concerned, historically what has happened is that a Cayman-owned yacht that is flagged and entirely owned outside the EU would be able to enter into the EU under TA without paying any duty or VAT, provided that it doesn’t operate commercially or remain in the EU for longer than 18 months at a time.
A tax advisor we spoke to gives an example of how this works in practice. “I`m working on a transaction currently where we have a UK individual who is purchasing a yacht from a northern EU yard,” he explains. “The yard will export the vessel from the EU and the owner will take title after it’s been exported. It will be purchased by an Isle of Man company who will sail it straight down to the Med.” No VAT or duty will be payable because the yacht meets Temporary Admission requirements in the EU – ie. it is privately operated, IOM-owned and IOM flagged. It is important to note that under TA, care must be taken when inviting EU residents on board as this should be done when the owner is also present in the EU – it is even better if they are on board the yacht.
Advisors have trod carefully with this turn of events, understandably cautious about interpreting a new set of circumstances and how these might affect their clients. “We recently took delivery of a 50m yacht for a UK owner that will cruise under Temporary Admission,” reflects James Jaffa (pictured below). “The owner is established outside the EU, the yacht is structured properly and yet there is a fear as this is brand new and untested.” Jaffa`s firm have taken extensive advice and have been given the go-ahead. “We`ve been told for UK owners operating privately, go ahead and cruise in the Med to your heart’s content,” he says, adding: “It’s been a big change for us as a law firm.”
Lorna Titley is a Director at Quaynote Communications, a communications company specialising in PR & Marketing Consultancy and Live / Virtual / Hybrid Conferences & Events for the Aviation, Maritime and Security Industries. E: firstname.lastname@example.org