Return Goods Relief (RGR) for Non-EU Flagged Yachts

Non-EU flagged yachts in free circulation in the EU need to consider Return Goods Relief if they intend to leave the EU.

RGR allows EU origin goods or goods which were in free circulation within the EU at the time of removal from the EU (Outward Processing), to be cleared into the EU (Inward Processing) without the payment of customs duty, and in certain circumstances, import VAT.

The rules on how this applies vary from country to country with one exception which is that it applies to Non-EU flagged yachts. The time limit for such removals has also now been clarified in the Modernised Customs Code as 3 years.


All non-EU flagged yachts in free circulation, irrespective of the VAT structure in place are required to follow the RGR processing if they are planning to leave for a period of 4 months or more. As the customs agent will remain liable for VAT on the yacht value, for yachts that are being removed from France, the yacht must re-enter the EU in France but not necessarily the same port. In order to close out your fiscal position in France a full export and re-importation rather than RGR should be considered.


There is nothing in the Italian customs rules that states that you lose your in free circulation status if you leave the EU. For those yachts leaving for a winter in the Caribbean with intentions to return to the EU, no exportation is required from Italy. For those yacht leaving the EU permanently or that wish to close out an import in France, an export can be arranged.


UPDATE 16 October 2018 – Spanish Customs have advised that Non EU flagged yachts which are classed as EU goods (in free circulation) will receive equal treatment as EU flagged yachts which removes the need to undertake the RGR procedure for either departure from or returning to the EU.

Original Text 8 June 2018

All non-EU flagged yachts that have accounted for VAT in the EU are required to be exported and re-imported into the EU within a 3 year period. Failure to do so could result in the loss of the VAT accounted for status. Early indications are that any trip apart from transit stops for refuelling etc require the export and import formalities to be undertaken.

As with most customs matters in the EU, especially for those relating to yachts, there is a different interpretation in each member state. Clarity is still being sought in some member states and there are a number of questions still to be answered including how re-entry will be treated in Spain for a yacht that leaves from say France for two months when no export is required. As the customs agent will remain liable for VAT on the yacht value, for yachts that have been exported the yacht must re-enter the EU in the same customs territory, not necessarily the same port.


Greece does not apply such rules and yachts simply apply for new customs papers when they return from outside the EU.

Consultation prior to any departure from the EU for any Non EU flagged yacht is strongly recommended.

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