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Aircraft VAT / import VAT / getting busted upon landing in the EU (merged thread)

Does anyone know if there’s a way to establish whether EU VAT has been paid on an aircraft?

I’m currently looking at an aircraft in the USA and I know that it has spent time in Europe, seemingly on both the Danish (OY) and Luxembourg (LX) registers.

The current owners in the USA can’t seem to find relevant records and, absent tracking down the prior owner(s) (somehow), I’m not sure where to turn.

EGTR, EGSX, United Kingdom

If there is no documentation then you need to expect to pay the import VAT on it. There is no way around this.

You could try tracing the previous owners, as you suggest. If even this is not possible, the whole thing is deeply suspicious because very few people are going to buy or sell a plane and then chuck away the paperwork.

@g-slot post moved to existing thread.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

If it was on a EU register for a private (more precisely: non VAT-taxable person) owner, then VAT must have been paid at that time, but indeed without proof, that will not do you any good.

As to “nobody chucking away paperwork”, often/sometimes people have loads of paperwork, but not the one piece you need. I’ve seen a PH (Dutch) registered plane where the first Dutch owner had customs import papers from the USA to Switzerland, but not from Switzerland to the Netherlands. The Dutch register was very kind, said they must (20 years ago…) have seen EU customs import papers or they wouldn’t have registered it, they must have a copy, but they were in the central archive in another building/street/city/… and thus cannot easily find it back.

Plus, US owners would not be interested in, and not necessarily understand the meaning and value of, EU customs / VAT papers.


Are you sure that having paid eu vat in the past would even solve the problem?

I did a little googling. There is a page from the irish tax authorities on reimporting goods.


It suggests that there is only Relief from vat if the person reimporting is the same person who exported.

There may be other rules that I’ve missed but thought I’d pass on the caution so you’re not badly caught.

EIWT Weston

By coincidence somebody sent me this this morning

Cross out yacht and insert aeroplane … etc

Are you a prospective buyer or existing owner of a boat in the EU? Are you looking to import a vessel into an EU member state? Then the issue of VAT is an essential one to consider.

All yachts built in or brought into the EU on or after 1 January 1985 must be able to prove their VAT paid status. A boat built before this date is deemed to have VAT paid status if it was in private ownership and within the EU at midnight on 31 December 1992. Proof of this may be required by the local customs and can be difficult to provide as log books, marina receipts or invoices going back that far have often been lost or destroyed or simply not passed on as ownership has changed hands. If documentary evidence of the location of the vessel on 31 December 1992 cannot be provided you should provide whatever documents you have so that the local customs may form a view as to the location of the boat based on the documents you do have. Some sales have fallen through because such information cannot be provided and a potential buyer has an increased risk of being stopped and fined for a not having a VAT paid boat.

Can a boat lose its VAT paid status?

If a yacht with VAT paid status is exported from the EU it will usually qualify for relief from having to pay VAT again if it is imported back into the EU within 3 years of its export, provided that it is imported by the same person who exported it, i.e. no change of owner whilst outside the EU. However, this will not exempt it from any customs duties that maybe apply. If your boat will be exported for more than 3 years you should check the position with customs.

That sounds about right.

There is also good stuff back up this thread – example.

I did a quick google… In the UK, Notice 236 is relevant. Some stuff concerning VAT is also here.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of planes which are worth 20% less than their owners want to get for them, and they are hoping for a buyer who doesn’t know about this. Best not to wake a sleeping dog, etc etc….

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

From here

This is still a concern for me.
My aircraft was imported from the US in the late 80’s to Sweden.
There is no record of VAT payment, but it was a private owner, so he must have paid something.

I was assured that since the aircraft was only ever in private hands, no VAT needed to be paid.

I called the Swedish ta authorities to see if I couldn’t obtain proof of payment, but they didn’t care.
The previous owner had died (of old age) and I found a friend of his, but he said all the personal effects were gone.

Without being an EU tax guru, of course I’m nervous when I read things like this.

@LeSving if you are a Canadian and fly to the US without notifying customs, yes you will have trouble. But 25k for it after you’ve already left? Highly doubtful if you’re cooperative and humble.

It is still bizarre to me that you’re so comfortable with a pilot being charged 25k for such a minor infraction. He made a best attempt to fulfill the law. If that doesn’t count for anything, laws are worthless, and again, we should all be in prison. I’m sure you’re included (whether you know it or not). Everyone makes mistakes.

What reg is you aircraft? N or EU?

Also, btw, where are you based and what type of AC do you fly?

Frankfurt (EDFZ, EDFE), Germany

(posts moved to existing Import VAT thread)

@AF this is indeed the classic issue in the EU.

I was assured that since the aircraft was only ever in private hands, no VAT needed to be paid.


There is no record of VAT payment, but it was a private owner, so he must have paid something.

Indeed; a search on e.g. C88 digs up various posts. There is also a widespread view that the original sales invoice is a good enough proof (it isn’t, because it doesn’t prove the VAT was paid) and it may work.

Normally EU countries don’t hit each others’ registrations for VAT document searches, presumably because they think the success rate would be low. They prefer N-regs etc. I was told there was a treaty to support that policy but (various previous discussions on that too) nobody has found evidence of it; fwiw the source of that story is a well known GA personality who has enjoyed dropping bits of bullsh1t in social media for many years because it makes him feel important.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Thanks @Peter
In grateful I put it on the EU reg and didn’t switch to N then… As I cautiously am optimistic.

I think flying in Europe is like voluntary Russian Roulette. You know you’ll get shot for something at some point, and you’re really trying your best to figure out when the chamber will be loaded, but it’s all a bit neurotic.

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