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HMRC internal manual

VAT Charities

Lifeboats: Definition of a lifeboat

There is no definition of the type of boat which is a lifeboat. The only conditions are that:

  • a lifeboat should be a “vessel” - this means that it should have the character of a ship or boat
  • it should be used solely for rescue or assistance at sea.

The scope of the term is sufficiently wide to include vessels such as surf rescue craft, provided they are capable of carrying persons and have some artificial means of propulsion for example sails, engines or oars.

Craft with the character of surf boards do not qualify. However, particular care needs to be taken with craft described as “surf skis” and “jet skis”. Some types are boats, others are not.

Once you are satisfied that the craft is a vessel you need only to consider the use to which a boat is put.

  • If the boat is used solely to provide rescue services at sea it may be regarded as a lifeboat.
  • If the boat is put to any other use in addition to sea rescue services it is not a lifeboat.
  • If the boat is not used for sea rescue services it is not a lifeboat.