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HMRC internal manual

VAT Export and Removal of Goods from the UK

HM Revenue & Customs
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stores for use in ships, aircraft or hovercraft: Scope and definition for VAT purposes

For VAT purposes, the term ’stores’ covers goods for use on a voyage or flight with a non- private purpose and with an eventual destination outside the UK. This includes

  • fuel
  • goods for running repair and maintenance - eg lubricants, spare and replacement parts
  • goods for general use on board by the crew - eg kitchenware
  • goods for sale by retail to persons carried on the voyage or flight - eg confectionery, holiday souvenirs, watches.

There is no stores relief available for goods used on road vehicles, e.g. coaches or for Channel Tunnel trains.

Although goods for general use on board ships, aircraft or hovercraft departing for an eventual destination outside the UK qualify as stores, goods ordered by individual crewmembers for their own private use do not. These individuals may be entitled to relief from VAT under the terms of the Retail Export Scheme (RES) - see Notice 704 VAT retail exports.

Impact of the Single Market on supplies of stores

Before the introduction of the Single Market, the EC Member States considered the abolition of stores relief for intra-EC trade. However, due to possible trade distortion and competition from non-EC countries, they decided that the existing stores relief would continue, with some amendments, until revised proposals were adopted. These proposals have not yet been published by the European Commission and therefore the current UK stores provisions remain extant.

Irrespective of whether the destination of a named vessel or aircraft on a non-private journey is another EC Member State or a third country, the supply of stores to such vessels or aircraft in the EC is treated as zero-rated.