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Three Yachts at Sea | Praxis

Essential Criteria for EU Charter Yacht Operation

Many articles have been written about the various aspects of charter yacht operation; however, it is important that three areas are considered, not just one element in isolation.

So, what does a charter vessel/owner need to do? Quite simply three criteria should be met.

  • The owning company should have a place of business in the EU, and this is achieved with a VAT registration in the EU – an EU company is advisable to mitigate withholding tax issues however a non-EU company can be used in certain circumstances although not recommended.
  • The vessel must be “In Free Circulation” which can be achieved by way of formal importation into the EU. This is usually undertaken in France under the French Commercial Exemption (FCE) or Reverse Charge Mechanism, in Malta under a commercial import, or in the country of VAT registration.
  • The requisite fiscal and charter arrangements are put in place for each country where the yacht is put at the disposal of the charterer. This is usually one and the same as where the charter commences.

Running a charter yacht is the same as running a small business and as such, all activity must be on a commercial, arm’s length basis. Where charter vessels encounter problems from fiscal and customs authorities, we see that problems have inevitably arisen because of the failure to comply to the criteria mentioned above. All use of the yacht must be under charter contract with evidence of the payment of a market value charter fee and any applicable VAT available onboard for production in the event of a control. With many articles written from differing perspectives, it is easy to understand how the message has been mis-interpreted by owners, resulting in innocent exposure to a VAT liability and possible penalties. Historic operation without challenge is also no basis for comfort of correct structuring, especially with boardings, inspections and scrutiny from the authorities at an all-time high.  Whilst part of the problem is the varying rules and interpretations between member states, the other problem lies where the most favourable interpretations are adopted and considered the norm.

The rules that apply to chartering in each country do vary enormously and some countries rules are still very fluid such as Greece. The most popular countries for fiscal charter arrangements are France, Italy, and Spain, followed by Croatia and Greece. As we know yachts often move from country to country during a charter so the VAT application for each charter need to be considered collectively.



Please note that this article is intended to provide a general overview of the matters to which it relates. It is not intended as professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. Any engagement in respect of our professional services is subject to our standard terms and conditions of business and the provision of all necessary due diligence. © Praxis 2023


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