Various schemes are available for minimising (or even avoiding) VAT on new boats or on EU-owned boats entering the EU for the first time. Some, however, are so complicated and expensive that it’s questionable whether they are worth it. An easy alternative was to take advantage of the unique legal status of the Azores. Unlike the Channel Islands, the Azores are part of Portugal and hence a member of the EU, but the local authorities attracted imports by levying a rate of just 12%. Following recent EU regulations, however, a minimum rate has now been set across the EU of 15% and this applies to all imports into the Azores after the 31st July 2005.

Care must still be taken with these complicated regulations even when a boat is already VAT paid. Germany has recently levied the full rate of VAT on a VAT paid boat which has been absent from the EU after a three year absence. Although this is being appealed, the regulations seem to support an extended absence as an export. For world travellers one way around this is to check in to one of the French overseas départments which, for the purposes of the regulations, are treated as part of the EU