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Customs regulations: Import duties when buying a boat – What to look out for.

When a person living in the European Union wants to import a yacht from a non-EU country into the EU, for example when buying a yacht in the USA and bringing it to Germany, customs import duties are incurred. SeaHelp explains when a so-called customs operation (import operation) is present, and how high the duties are..

It sounds tempting: a German buyer buys a yacht at a low price in the US. Subsequently, he wants to bring them to Germany. Here then quickly follows the disillusionment: Germany requires an import tax. What is this all about, and what should be taken into account?

Generally speaking: if a person living in the EU, in our example the German buyer, buys a boat in a non-EU country and then imports it into the EU, for example to Germany, a so-called import duty is incurred.

The amount of import duty depends on the type and size of the boat / yacht

The reason for this is that by definition in this case there is a customs transaction (more precisely: an import transaction). The amount of import duties depends on the type and size of the boat / yacht and amounts to between 1.7 and 2.7 percent duty.

In addition, there is the import sales tax (currently 19 percent in Germany), but this is not the subject of discussion here, because according to EU Directive 2006/112/EC, water sports vehicles intended for use within the member states of the European Union (internal market) and by persons resident there must be in free circulation for tax purposes.

For the remission of customs duties, a so-called movement certificate is required

Conversely, this means that for every water sports vehicle that is permanently used within the EU, VAT must have been paid at least once in an EU member state.

The duty rate of interest here does not apply if the yacht was built in a country with which the EU has concluded an agreement on customs relief. This is the case, for example, with countries such as Turkey, Norway or Switzerland. It is important to note that proof of this is required.

For the waiver of customs duties, the so-called movement certificate EUR1 is required, which can be used to claim customs benefits from importing countries with which the EU has concluded a free trade or preferential trade agreement.

Customs has an information desk for general questions from private individuals

Also required is a corresponding manufacturer’s certificate from the shipyard. Important: already before the actual boat import (in our example USA – Germany) all formalities must be completely clarified.

General inquiries from private persons from Germany (and also from Austria, if imports into the EU are concerned) can be answered by the customs staff by phone +49 351 44834-510, by e-mail or by De-Mail

For inquiries from Austria, there is a corresponding contact form for inquiries at; in person, you can reach a contact person by phone at +43 50 233-740 or +43 50 233-729 or by e-mail at So if you want to be on the safe side, make a detailed inquiry here in advance.

When importing must be declared in the first country reached, the customs process can take place at the later place of use

With the USA (as well as some other countries) a corresponding agreement on customs facilitation has not been concluded. In the above example (purchase of a yacht in the USA by an EU citizen living in Germany and transfer of the yacht to Germany), the customs duty is therefore not waived.

In general, when importing a boat/yacht: it must always be declared in the first EU country reached by sea (or land). The actual customs process can be done either at the border, or where the boat will be used later (so-called shipping procedure T1).

Note: the boat / yacht can only be customs cleared where it is “physically” actually located. For example, only a boat that is located or should be located in Germany, can also be customs cleared in Germany; age and time of commissioning of the boat / yacht play no role here.

No import duties have to be paid for relocation goods

From a purchase and subsequent import of a boat / yacht is the circumstance to distinguish, if a person (from the non-EU foreign country, e.g. from the USA) moves to a country of the EU (e.g. to Germany) and brings his boat / yacht as so-called Übersiedlungsgut.

In this case, there is also a customs transaction, but in contrast to the above, no import duties have to be paid. Prerequisite for this, however, is that the boat / yacht must already have been at least six months in the ownership of the moving, and the owner must have already lived for at least one year outside the EU.

Most common customs procedure for boats is the so-called temporary duty-free import

Completely independent here is where (in which country) the boat / yacht was produced. If the relevant evidence has been submitted, checked and accepted by the authorities (or in the case of verifiable payment of customs duty), customs issues a corresponding certificate of clearance, with which the boat / yacht may be imported.

The most common and usual of all customs operations related to boats is the so-called “temporary duty-free importation”. It occurs when a person residing outside the EU only wants to use a boat in an EU country for a longer period of time.

This is the case, for example, when a person residing outside the EU (such as a U.S. citizen) wishes to place his boat in a port on the German coast. In this case, no import duties have to be paid.

Prerequisite: the yacht must not remain in the EU indefinitely

Reason: it is a so-called temporary duty-free import. The condition is that the boat / yacht does not remain indefinitely in the EU. The durations of stay to be approved vary from country to country (in EU countries almost everywhere 18 months) and should be inquired under above contacts at customs.

During this time, however, the boat / yacht is subject to (German) customs supervision. This means that within 18 months you should clear out once – “leave the country” – and immediately afterwards clear in again – “enter the country” – so that the period starts again from the beginning. Attention: the declaration out and the re-entry should be able to be proved (documents, logbook).

If a yacht was outside the EU for more than three years, it can be declared as a dutiable return

The other way around (for example, a boat was stationed outside the EU for more than three years, perhaps because it was in the USA, or because the owner was on a longer circumnavigation of the world), import duties may well be charged when it returns to the EU. Reason: in this case the boat / yacht is declared as – no longer duty and tax free – returned goods according to the customs law.

The only way to avoid this annoying duty is to call at the port of an EU country with the yacht within this time (Attention: have it officially confirmed by the port authority!). If you want to be on the safe side, get the INF3 form and have it confirmed (before departure) by the authorities (official date of EU departure).

The information sheet INF 3 (Form 0329), which serves as a certificate of identity for returned goods, is only available from pre-printed shops. For more information, see, keyword private individuals / travel / return-from-a-non-EU-country / customs-and-taxes / returned-goods.


Import duties when buying a boat: T2L / T2LF
Screenshot zoll.deQuelle:


Important in practice: the movement certificate / proof of preference T2L / T2LF

The most important customs document to prove whether the goods are admitted for free circulation in the EU is called T2L or T2LF, which are movement certificates or preferential certificates for goods in statistically free circulation (i.e. for non-Community goods or EU Community goods that have already been cleared through customs, thus proof of the Community nature of goods) – important, for example, if you want to conclude an annual berth in Italy, Croatia or Spain.

If goods are transported to or from territories not belonging to the tax territory of the Community, proof of the Community nature of the goods can be provided by presenting a T2L (F) shipping document.

The territories listed below are part of the customs territory of the EU but are not part of the tax territory for excise duties and value added taxes: the British Channel Islands, the overseas departments of France (Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe, Réunion, French Guiana and Saint-Martin), the Canary Islands, the Åland Islands, Mount Athos in Greece.

The difference between the certificates is whether or not the tax territory of the EU is left during transport

Note: the T2L document applies to goods that do not leave the tax territory of the EU during transport from the country of departure to the country of destination (e.g. San Marino, Andorra). T2LF is issued in similar cases to T2L, but country of departure and/or country of destination as well as parts of the transport route do not belong to the tax territory of the EU. (E.g. over water, or to and from Canary Islands, Channel Islands and Aland Islands).

Good to know: a value limit does not exist here; the form T2L / T2LF is filled out in each case by the exporter (or his appointed service provider) and checked by the competent export customs office for accuracy and subsequently certified.

A retrospective issuance of the T2L / T2LF is also possible, there is no deadline here

A subsequent issuance is also possible here; there is no deadline for the presentation of the T2L or T2LF shipping document. In contrast to EUR.1, however, the customs office does not require any documentary evidence for the T2L / T2LF, such as supplier’s declarations in the case of merchandise or a declaration of origin, in order to prove the origin of the export goods.

The topic of import VAT is given its own news item will be dedicated to it.

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