How can I send sailboat parts to myself in Spain for personal use without paying VAT. (I'm a US citizen going for the summer)
February 4, 2007 11:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm a US Citizen, and I recently bought a sailboat that is in Spain from another American. I'm preparing to go there and sail the boat around the med for the summer. I would like to purchase some of the equipment that I need here in the states before I go so I can save some $$ and get the right stuff the first time without language barriers. My question is how to get it to Spain without taking a major hit for VAT. I can take some of the items with me in my luggage, but I would like to ship a crate full of heavier things ahead of time. I have a friend who lives in Spain (Spanish citizen) who I could sent it to and have him hold it till I get there. What is the best way to avoid VAT? I'm not looking to cheat the rules here, but I don't want to pay an extra 20% on everything if I don't have to. Also, this is for personal use, and the boat is in my name. Thanks! - Eli B
posted by elib to Travel & Transportation around Spain (11 answers total)
 
There might be a way to get a VAT refund if you plan on exporting the items from Spain again.
posted by dcjd at 11:57 AM on February 4, 2007


It isn't clear from your question that the items will be returning to the US. Is that the case? If not, then you are indeed trying to cheat the rules.
posted by odinsdream at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2007


odinsdream, I read that elib's statement to mean"I want to avoid the tax (only) if it van be done within the rules"
posted by winston at 12:35 PM on February 4, 2007


odinsdream: Is it really cheating the VAT rules if you already own the items? Are you actually supposed to pay the taxes twice?

It seems silly to me that you'd have to pay tax twice on personal items, but then I did end up having to pay about fifty bucks to get some peanut butter and hot sauce shipped to me by my mom. I figured that was just because it was all brand-new and my German wasn't that great yet.
posted by atomly at 1:07 PM on February 4, 2007


I once moved to another country, took a bunch of musical instruments with me and some time after I returned to my country with all the instruments. In order to avoid paying taxes for my stuff I had to go to my embassy in the country I was living in and have them "certify" that the stuff was mine.

Perhaps there is an agency of your government (or maybe the customs) that can certify that you are taking the stuff with you and you plan to return with it.
posted by micayetoca at 3:01 PM on February 4, 2007


1. The usual international shippers - FedEx, DHL/Airborne Express, and UPS will handle the necessary import/export duties for you. I've had particularly good luck with DHL, the customer service rep suggested useful ways to legally "optimize" our payments. In one case, we were shipping prototype electronic equipment to the USA from Asia. My sketchy boss (at the time) was prepared to lie on the custom forms. DHL simply suggested that we declare the items prototypes and sail through the perfectly legal exemption. I think my boss was slightly disappointed that he missed a chance to cheat a government.

2. Your friends in Spain may be able to give you additional advice.

3. Try to find a forum or mailing list of international people who sail the med - they can probably give you additional advice.

4. Monaco (southern France) is a well known income tax haven. Given that it doesn't have massive shipping facilities, there are probably no advantages to be gained by transhipping your goods through Monaco, but still worth a check.

5. Gibralter seems to have some favorable corporate tax laws, they may have favorable import/export policies as well.

6. Somewhat offtopic: I'm reading To Rule The Waves right now, and it deals with the long history of exactly your issue: how to get stuff from place to place at the lowest cost possible. Plenty of pirates, smuggling, blocade running, scurvy and other fun nautical stuff. You might enjoy reading it on your flight to Spain.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:31 PM on February 4, 2007


If your yacht is non EU flagged you are entitled to a customs transit to get your goods onboard duty free; provided said goods are essential to running of said yacht. In practice this depends where your yacht is docked as some areas are more geared for this than others.
My email is in my profile. I used to part own a freight and customs agency in Spain geared especially to the needs of larger yachts; I can probably steer you in the right direction.
posted by adamvasco at 3:33 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure you are talking about customs fees, and Spanish customs are probably the people you should be asking.

VAT isn't levied by the government against individuals, it's collected by companies in the supply chain and forwarded by them to the government (simultaneously, they get the VAT they have paid for things refunded), and since there is no EU company providing you with an item or a service, I think it's technically impossible for you to owe anyone any VAT. It can be confusing because customs and VAT can often be similarly giant chunks of cash.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 3:24 AM on February 5, 2007


Also, I think it is improbable that you owe customs for things you brought from home for your own personal use (not impossible; customs laws are pretty arbitrary). The issue with shipping the items is that there is no way for the customs officers to automatically know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are already your things, so they might have some way they will want you to prove that.

BTW, I had a very weird and awful experience with UPS and customs (and I'm used to dealing with annoying customs situations since I live in Germany and moved my stuff here from the US); googling "ups sucks customs" shows that it wasn't a unique experience. I've had good experiences with Fedex, but the truth is, if you do the documentation correctly and buy insurance, you don't need to use a private courier for international shipping and for heavy stuff it might be cheaper to ship USPS.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 4:09 AM on February 5, 2007


Eh, looks like customs does sometimes directly levy VAT when things are going through customs. Sorry!
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 10:05 AM on February 5, 2007


I should requalify my answer above. You may get a customs transit to bring goods in from non EU countries to a non EU registered yacht. There is not tax exemption on EU goods going onboard foreign flagged yachts in EU waters. Again email in profile if you want to get more specific.
posted by adamvasco at 3:10 PM on February 5, 2007


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