Yeah, I’m the taxman

Pity the errant British circumnavigator. When they buy their boat they have the pleasure of paying Value Added Tax to Her Majesty’s treasury. A princely 20% of its purchase price. Having parted with significant wads of cash, the wise buyer registers their boat as ‘VAT paid’. Off they go. Around the world for the trip of a lifetime. Sailing thither and yon for as much time as funds and local immigration allows. Three years plus a day later they sail triumphantly up the Solent to set foot once again onto England’s green and pleasant land. Awaiting their return is the VAT man, invoice in hand.

“What’s all this then?”, sputters the Captain.

“It’s a bill, mate! You’ve been out of the country for more than three years. You exported your yacht and just now brought it back in. You owe us 20% of what we say it’s worth. Oh, and welcome home!”, replies HM Customs and Excise.

“Bollocks to that!”, mutters the Captain, searching desperately for his solicitor’s phone number.

Bonded and Reassured

Taxes are mutable things. Subject to the will of the law and interpretation by the citizenry. What we know is that if Aleta stays in the EU for more than 18 months we are liable to pay VAT on her assessed value. This rule is enough to discourage many American sailors from crossing the pond. After all, there’s so much to see and do in Europe, 18 months is the retirees equivalent of a day trip from school.

Covid thwarted our initial plan of a flying visit to Tunisia and resetting Aleta’s VAT clock. But we learned we could place her in bond (for a reasonable fee) and thereby extend her allowed time in the EU by six months without penalty. The only downside is, once placed in bond she cannot be sailed anywhere but out of the EU. With winter upon us and Covid stifling all the fun in the world, we happily agreed that binding Aleta was our best option. Our only challenge was her current US Coast Guard registration certificate was sitting in Massachusetts. Thank heavens for seafaring uncles and expedited mail.

All the paperwork collated, we handed everything over to Giuseppe, our modest, nattily attired, and incredibly competent liaison between Base Nautica Flavio Gioia’s clients and Gaeta’s local dogana officials. Within a week we received official notification that we were bonded (bound?). And, with a final Covid-induced flourish, we had been given an additional six months to get the heck out of Dodge. Until we leave, we are doing our best to support the local economy. Waiter! Bring me more fish! Put it down by my side!

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