Ebay has gone quiet this week with no new listings of cheap yachts. The wreck has reappeared At exactly the same price it didn't sell for before.
There was a yacht that went for very little that had quite a bit of history involved with it (google "yacht stalker" to read the story). Seaworthiness obviously isn't an issue as its just come thousands of miles from Turkey, but having arrived from a non-EU country, VAT status and CE compliance are very big issues. Obviously VAT would have to be paid to HMRC on the cost of the boat (luckily not too great a sum for a cheap boat) but CE compliance can cost several times what the boat cost.
I did email the broker selling the yacht on behalf of the owner and was told VAT and CE compliance aren't an issue on such an old boat. Which is true had the boat been in the EU all its life. But having just arrived from a non-EU country, however old the boat is the clock starts now.
Take VAT status for instance. On a pre-1985 boat the boat is deemed to be VAT-paid but only as long as there is proof of the boat being in EU waters on December 31st 1992. Now there are thousands of boats out there that don't have a hope in hell of providing such documentation, but those are the rules. Even so, if the boat gets sold outside the EU then the clock is reset and VAT will be due if the boat ever comes back into the EU. On a £300 boat its not so bad a risk as you get a receipt for £300, and then stump up the £60 VAT, get the receipt from the VAT man and then squirrel it all away with the boat's other important documents. Job done.
CE compliance is a bit more complex. Being a Leisure 17 the boat would have been made in the EU. At some point it went to Turkey. If there was documentation to show it was in the EU before 1998 then no problem. Without that documentation it becomes a new import, and therefore is required to be made compliant. I'd hope with this boat in particular that there would be a makers mark with the date of manufacture on it. Without that...
For the small boat owner its a minefield of complex legislation. Its above the head of your average bloke with a small yacht on a mud mooring. But the there is no getting away from the fact that all boats should have documentation of some sort to prove their status.
What are the chances of proving the VAT status on a cheap boat? How can you prove its date of manufacture, given that the manufacturer will most probably be long gone by now? How can you prove that the boat was in EU waters before Dec 31st 1992? Its a pretty anal owner that keeps receipts of harbour dues or mooring fees from that long ago.
The same goes for CE compliance.
There really needs to be some sort of amnesty for owners of small boats such as you see parked up in the bays, creeks and estuaries, the boats that have been here donkeys years but have scant evidence to prove it.
But in the back of all our minds is the nagging feeling that at some point, some young upstart in some ministry or other will look at us as some new revenue stream and the more macho HMRC guys will love the idea of dashing about in a fast RIB intercepting small yachts and demanding papers, or suffer taxes... I mean fixed penalty notices.