Sailaway boats supplied for export outside the UK and EU (VAT Notice 703/2)

Find out the procedures you'll need to follow to zero rate VAT for the supply of a 'sailaway' boat.


This notice cancels and replaces Notices 703/2 (January 2011). Details of any changes to those notices can be found in paragraph 1.1.

1. Sailaway boats supplied for export outside the UK and European Union (EU)

1.1 What this notice is about

This notice explains the procedures for zero rating the supply of a ‘sailaway’ boat. It includes information that was previously contained in Notice 703/3 Sailaway boat scheme which is cancelled. The notice has been changed because UK residents can no longer buy a boat using the scheme.

1.2 The scheme

It’s a way for an entitled person to buy a boat for export from the UK or EU without paying VAT. Paragraphs 1.3 and 1.4 explain which boat purchases are eligible and who’s an entitled person.

1.3 The definition of a ‘sailaway’ boat

A ‘sailaway’ boat is defined as one which is to be:

  • delivered to the buyer or their authorised skipper within the UK or EU
  • exported under its own power to a destination outside the VAT territory of the UK or EU

1.4 Who can use the scheme

The scheme can only be used for the private purchase of a boat for private use by an overseas visitor. They must intend to export the boat under its own power to a destination outside the UK and also the EU within 6 months of the date of delivery. This is normally the date the boat leaves the manufacturer or supplier.

This scheme must not be used to buy boats used for commercial purchases.

Before 1 January 2012, UK residents who intended to export the boat to a destination outside the EU could also use the scheme, but they’re no longer eligible. But UK residents may be able to buy a boat VAT-free as long as the seller arranges the direct export of the boat to a destination outside the UK and also outside of the EU. See paragraph 1.6 and Notice 703 exports and removals of goods from the United Kingdom for conditions.

1.5 Which boat purchases are not eligible under the scheme

The scheme cannot be used for:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus*, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France including Monaco, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal including the Azores and Madeira, Romania, The Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and the Balearic Islands and Sweden.

*The European Commission in December 2003 advised that the application of the 6th VAT Directive (Directive 77/388/EEC of 17 May 1977) shall be suspended in those areas of Cyprus in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control. From 1 May 2004 goods to these destinations continue to be eligible for zero rating as exports.

1.6 Direct exports

The seller must not use the scheme if they arrange delivery of a boat either on a trailer or by using a skipper employed by them to a destination outside the UK and EU.

If the boat is not to be used in the UK or the EU before it’s exported, the seller can arrange for the boat to be delivered direct to a destination outside the UK, and EU, free of VAT.

1.7 Boats that are taken to member states of the EU

Boats supplied for private use that are removed from the UK to an EU country cannot be supplied under the scheme. For details of how they can be supplied free of VAT see Notice 728 new means of transport.

1.8 Parts and accessories

Parts and accessories are not covered by the scheme. But parts and accessories may be supplied under the Retail Export Scheme. Notice 704 retail exports explains how to deal with sales made under the Retail Export Scheme.

2. Information for sellers

2.1 What to do prior to the boat being supplied

Before a boat is supplied you must:

  • ensure that the buyer is entitled to use the scheme (see paragraph 1.4)
  • ensure that the buyer intends to export the boat from the UK, or EU, within the permitted 6 month time limit as outlined in paragraph 1.4
  • give the buyer a copy of this notice and an application form VAT 436
  • ensure the form VAT 436 is fully completed by you and the buyer, and Part 2 is submitted to the Personal Transport Unit at least 2 weeks before the boat is delivered to the customer

All notifications should be serially numbered in the top right hand corner and submitted to the Personal Transport Unit at the following address:

HM Revenue and Customs
Personal Transport Unit
Priory Court
St John's Road
CT17 9SH

Telephone: 01304 664171
Fax: 01304 664179

Ensure that notifications are correct and complete before you accept them. An incorrect or incomplete notification will be returned for correction, and this may delay the delivery of the boat.

The Personal Transport Unit will provide any help or advice on the purchase of a sailaway boat.

2.2 What you should do at the time of sale

At the time of sale you must:

  • ensure that the buyer knows that they must not dispose, or attempt to dispose of the boat in the UK or EU by hire, pledge as security, sale, gift or any other means
  • keep a separate record of the sale, and agree how any refund of the deposited VAT will be paid (see paragraph 2.6)

The the boat’s documents may only be used as security that’s required by the finance house for the purchase of the boat. The boat must not be pledged as security for a separate purchase, for example a car, flat or house.

2.3 Forms to use

You’ll need to prove that the boat has been removed from the UK and EU before you can zero rate the sale. The uses of the forms vary according to whether a boat departs to a destination directly from the UK or by an EU member state, see paragraphs 3.3 and 3.4.

The forms needed are:

Form VAT 436 Notification of VAT-free purchase of a Sailaway boat and buyer’s declaration.

Original copy 1 - copy for certification by a Customs officer
Copy 2 - Customs copy
Copy 3 - buyer’s copy
Copy 4 - seller’s copy

Form C88 Single Administrative Document - copies 1 to 3

Copy 1 - Community transit copy where applicable (seller to take a copy for their own records)
Copy 2 - for UK Customs
Copy 3 - for certification when the boat finally leaves the UK or EU

Form C1331 Notice of intended departure - to advise departure from the UK.

2.4 What happens if the order is cancelled

If, after the notification is processed, the order for the boat is cancelled by the buyer before delivery, you should immediately notify the Personal Transport Unit of:

  • the name of the buyer
  • details of the boat
  • the reference number shown on the form VAT 436

2.5 How to account for VAT

You must keep a separate record of all boats sold under the scheme. The sales invoice must clearly show that the supply of the boat was made under the Sailaway boat scheme.

If you do not obtain and hold evidence to show that the boat was exported within the 6 month time limit (see paragraph 1.4), you must account for VAT accordingly, if you’ve:

  • taken a deposit of the VAT due, then it should be brought to account
  • not taken a deposit you must amend your VAT records and account for VAT on the taxable proportion of the invoiced amount of consideration you have received, for a VAT rate of 20% the VAT element is calculated at 1/6

When you amend your VAT records you must make an entry equal to the tax on the supplies concerned on the ‘VAT payable’ side of your account. You include this amount in box 1 of your VAT return for the period in which the time limit expires.

2.6 Taking deposits of VAT

The boat is not eligible for zero-rated VAT status until you get form VAT 436 certified by the Customs office at the place of final departure from the UK or EU. You should treat any sale of a boat under the scheme as liable to VAT until you’ve had the certified form VAT 436. You can ask the buyer for a deposit equal to the amount of VAT, to be returned when you get the evidence of export.

If you do not get the necessary evidence of export you’ll have to account for the VAT due, even if you did not charge it at the point of sale.

2.7 What to do when you get the certified evidence of export

When you get the Customs certified evidence of export, you should refund any deposit to the buyer by the method agreed, and account for the sale in your VAT records as explained in paragraph 2.5.

2.8 If you get evidence of export after you’ve accounted for VAT

If you later get evidence that the boat was exported from the UK or EU within the permitted time limits, you can zero rate the supply and refund any deposit and adjust your VAT account for the period in which you got the evidence. You should treat the transaction as a credit in your VAT records. See Notice 700 the VAT Guide.

2.9 Using the scheme for supplies destined for the Channel Islands

The Channel Islands are outside the UK and EU VAT area and so qualify as a final destination for boats supplied VAT-free for export.

UK and EU residents who register VAT-free boats in the Channel Islands cannot claim VAT-free temporary importation of such boats into the UK or an EU member state. VAT is payable on these importations.

But subject to their meeting the conditions for temporary importation, private persons resident in the Channel Islands may be entitled to import their own boats for their own personal use for up to 18 months, without payment of import VAT.

3. Information for buyers

3.1 How to use the scheme

Before buying the boat you should make sure that the seller operates the scheme. The seller will check that you’re entitled to use the scheme and ask you to complete form VAT 436.

3.2 Using the boat before it is exported

You can use the boat before it’s exported but you must not:

  • hire the boat
  • give it away
  • offer it for sale
  • use it as security, except as part of any financial arrangement for the purchase of the boat
  • dispose of it in any other way while in the UK or EU

If the boat is re-imported or returns to the UK or EU at any time, you must inform the nearest Customs office of its arrival.

3.3 What to do if you’re leaving the UK directly for a destination outside the EU

You must:

  • ensure that the boat is exported within 6 months of the date of delivery (see paragraph 1.4)
  • complete form C1331 Notice of intended departure
  • make the boat available for inspection by Customs at exportation and where possible this should be arranged in advance with the Customs at the port of exportation (contact details can be found in Notice 8 sailing your pleasure craft to and from the United Kingdom)
  • take the completed form VAT 436 and C1331 to the Customs office nearest the place of departure. Customs will retain the form C1331 and sign and stamp form VAT 436 to show that the boat has been declared for exportation, the certified form will be returned to you
  • return the certified form VAT 436 to the seller, if they’ve given you a stamped addressed envelope, Customs may agree to return the form for you

3.4 What to do if you’re calling into an EU member state before finally exporting the boat from the UK or EU

You must:

  • ensure that the boat is exported within 6 months of the date of delivery (see paragraph 1.4)
  • take the completed forms C88 (copies 2 and 3) and VAT 436 to the UK Customs office nearest the place of departure from the UK, Customs will keep copy 2 of the form C88 and return copy 3, together with form VAT 436, to you
  • take copy 3 of the form C88 and the form VAT 436 to the Customs office at the place of final departure from the EU for certification
  • return the certified form C88 and form VAT 436 to the seller

The seller should ensure that you understand that they cannot zero rate the supply of the boat and make the refund of VAT until they have the Customs certified documents.

3.5 How to get the deposit for VAT back

The seller will refund any deposit of VAT by the method that they have agreed with you. They will be able to do this as soon as they have received the certified forms VAT 436 and C88.

3.6 What to do if you do not get the deposit back

If you do not get the refund within a reasonable period of time, you should contact the seller. HMRC is not responsible for refunding the deposit for VAT.

3.7 If you want to re-import a VAT-free boat into the UK or EU

If a boat that was supplied tax free at purchase is brought back to the UK or EU it must be declared to Customs in the member state of importation. The seller should ensure that you are fully aware of the need to make an import declaration. VAT will be payable unless some other relief is available.

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Published 28 December 2011