Moore Stephens offers advice on Italian VAT confusion
Yacht finance consultancy Moore Stephens has produced a frank and enlightening report to help its clients understand — and cope with — the recent sudden shift in Italian VAT enforcement. The following is an abridged version of that report:
"The past three months have seen a number of high-profile yacht arrests in Italy — the most dramatic of which was the armed boarding of the 63m Force Blue. The yachts have been stopped for reasons ranging from suspected smuggling to tax evasion.
The announcement, therefore, on June 21st of the conditional release from detention of the Cayman Islands flagged Force Blue to carry on with its charter trade along the Mediterranean and Italian coasts, reflects continuing confusion about Italy's position on VAT rules for commercial yachts.
Since 2004 the Italian authorities have appeared to treat commercial yachts as 'merchant' ships — exempting them from VAT.
It meant that any yacht holding a commercial registration certificate from any flag state (with a permanent crew and operating in a bona fide commercial way) was neither asked to have Italian VAT registration, nor required to undergo any kind of customs import procedure.
The VAT exemption appeared to apply to yacht owners by default. They could perform charters in Italy, buy parts and equipment and receive services of repair and maintenance — all free of Italian VAT.
So Italy's sudden switch to armed intervention has shocked the industry