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Old 10-12-2008, 10:52 AM   #1
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A new type of economic piracy?

An article in the English weekly newspaper Costa Blanca News ,October 3-9, 2008, in Spain states that Guardia Civil are clamping down on foreign boat owners who have not officially registered their vessels in Spain. The Guardia Civil has even created a special fiscal patrol called PAFITE for the purpose. It has already scared off some expat boat owners, and confused the rest.

The port authority in Torrevieja put up information on the Marina notice board in an effort to diffuse the situation.

The letter states that under Law 38/1992 leisure boats will be subjects to tax when permanent registration plate has not been applied for in Spain. This will apparently be applied to all leisure boats that stay more than six months alongside, without leaving Spanish waters. (Same as with private cars)

To reregister a boat into the Spanish Boat Register, lista 6[sup]a[/sup] or 7[sup]a[/sup] will cost at least a couple of thousand €, depending on size, age etcetera.

To me, as an ignorant on the matter, I smell foul play.

The Legislation concerning private leisure boats is very confusing in some other countries too.

A rumor has it, that a French yachtman had been moored in a Portugues port for a couple of years, when the Portugues authorities demanded a reregister of the boat to Portugues flag, presumably for the same reason.

The Frenchman refused, took the matter to the European Union, and won the case.

Does anyone know anything about this case? It could be of good help to many expat yachtmen in Spain.

Un Saludo

Don Quijote del Mar
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Old 10-12-2008, 11:54 AM   #2
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The problem here is that this is one of the instances in which somebody "knows" somebody or of something. In fact, all we know at the moment is that this rumour purports acourt case between Portugal and an unnamed person at, presumably, the European Court of Justice or the Court of First Instance. We do not know who was invloved, when the case was tried nor, in fact, if there realy was a case.

Living in Vigo, I would love to find out more about this case as it is my intention to keep my yacht in Vigo or, failing that due to Spain's registry requirements, Portugal, but we don't have much to go on. I am as capable as the next person of searching records but we need a bit more information.

Please, anyone out there who knows anything about this, please share the information.

Unfortunatley, I am inclined to believe that it is only a rumour as EU legislation enshrines the right of free movement of finance, services and labour as well as equality and I fail to see how demanding the same taxes and registration from other EU citizens (resident in your country) as your own could be construed as failing in any one of these ideals. The only possible case where a Frenchman (as in the purported case refers to) or any other EU national resident in Portugal or any other EU Member State could be excempt from registration and taxation requirements, as far as I can see, would be if he or she had diplomatic or partial-diplomatic status.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 10-12-2008, 10:52 PM   #3
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I cruised down the spanish coast this summer, stopping few days in torrevieja, it is definetly happening.

In the local english pub, The Ship, a couple of owners had been served papers and will now have to re-register thier boat as spanish. The other big worry was having to take spanish sailing exams, but this turns out not to be the case, RYA qualifications are recognised.

There seemed to be a lot of worried people in both Torrivieja and Almeriamar. Seems the Valencia region are "cracking down".

Here in mallorca no one seems bothered, but i think if it comes to raising extra revenue that may change....IMHO

not heard anything about it being challenged in european court, i think that would be just to expensive for us mere mortals.

regards

Roy
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Old 10-12-2008, 11:31 PM   #4
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This sort of registration and tax problem seems to exist for boat owners the world over. Whenever one is using a boat for a period of some months in a given area the "local" government does see the opportunity to tax or require registration.

In the initial discussion of "6 months or more" in Spanish waters...well, that's quite a bit of time. If one is a cruiser, wouldn't one be moving on? Else, pay the local piper?

I don't speak lightly of this matter as we've been subject to high taxes in various US states where we are "visitors" for a time. But, this seems to be the normal way of taxing folks who don't vote in local elections and can't speak up for themselves in any other way.

The logical solution-- keep moving
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Old 10-13-2008, 12:33 AM   #5
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Sounds like typical stuff.

Can you sail out into international waters and return? Wouldn't that "reset the clock" so to speak?

I have heard of people doing this to avoid a tax in Costs Rica. They simply sail up to Nicaragua or down to Panama and return to Costa Rica before the tax is applied. Don't know if it would work in this situation though. Good luck on a solution...
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Old 10-13-2008, 01:30 AM   #6
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The article in the Costa Blanca News, October 3-9, was written by djones@cbnews.es , one of the editors, and ought to have some credibility.

But, by all means, the article could be a hoax, and the Guardia Civil "special fiscal patrol PAFITE" invented as a misplaced April joke.

However, on June 6, 2006, the French owner of a sailing yacht registered in France was asked by the Portuguese authorities in Porto de Sines to register the boat in Portugal because he had stayed in Portuguese ports for longer than six months. The yacht owner wanted to keep the French flag and turned to SOLVIT for help. SOLVIT Portugal contacted the "Instituto Portuário dos Transportes Marítimos" to clarify the situation. The six monthlimitation was not applicable to EU registered boats. This was explained to the local port authorities so that the French sailor could keep his flag.

Solved within 12 days.

A little search on Internet showed that it wasn´t a rumour after all. (SOLVIT is a EU unit in every EU country to solve problems on free movement within EU.)

Un saludo

Don Quijote del Mar.
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Old 10-13-2008, 05:18 AM   #7
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Indeed, this is good news.

Unfortunately SOLVIT is not an EU unit. SOLVIT is a problem solving network in which EU Member States work together to solve without legal proceedings problems caused by the misapplication of Internal Market law by public authorities. They are part of the national administration but, not being a court, they are no more than arbitrators (although not in a legal sense, i.e. not a court of arbitration). SOLVIT is an informal approach to problem solving and, to my way of thinking, a great initiative greatly cutting down the costs and time involved to have a case resolved in court. You cannot win or lose a case with SOLVIT. What matters though is that SOLVIT can lend weight to one's argument hopefully that is sufficient for an authority to change their decission in your favour.

There appear to be two sailing vessel related cases in which SOLVIT assisted in resolving the problems:

The first, as you mentioned, was the Frenchman's case.

The French owner of a sailing yacht registered in France was asked by the Portuguese authorities in Porto de Sines to register his boat in Portugal because he had stayed in Portuguese ports for longer than six months. The yacht owner wanted to keep the French flag and turned to SOLVIT for help. SOLVIT Portugal contacted the maritime port authority to clarify the situation. It appeared that the six month limitation was not applicable to EU registered boats. This was explained to the local port authorities so that the French sailor could keep his flag

The second involved a German charter business.

A German enterprise charters four yachts under German flag to tourists in Italy. The business-owner was fined for not having registered its commercial yachts with local port authorities according to recent Italian regulations. Five months later, after repeatedly trying to obtain registration, the business-owner was told that registration would only be possible if the business was established in Italy. SOLVIT Italy stepped in to clarify that this condition was not in line with EU law and that the authorities should accept the registration in the German Chamber of Commerce. All four yachts were registered and charter licences were issued.

SOLVITs intervention in the above instances is, for European Union sailors living in another EU country, really positive. I think there is a very good chance that Spain will also be "encouraged" to follow the recommendations SOLVIT made in the above cases.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention Don Quijote!

Aye // Stephen
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Old 10-20-2008, 07:48 PM   #8
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"Boat owners in a fix" (Article in CBN 2 weeks ago.) in Spain can ask SOLVIT for help. solvit@ue.mae.es or telephone 913799999.

SOLVIT is an informal, free of charge and quick case handling Center in all EU member countries, for solving cross border problems for private citizens and businesses. They have handled similar cases successfully in other countries.

No Spanish port authority, nor Guardia Civil, can force a private boat owner from another EU country to reregister his boat into the Spanish Boat Register. So don´t wet your pants, skippers. See http://europa.eu.int/solvit .

However, Guardia Civil and other authorities have the right to check all the boats´ papers.

I believe that the real reason for this clamp down on long staying expat boat owners is to seek elsewhere.

Perhaps the various authorities only want the long staying boat owners to register themselves as residents and "patronizados", so they can charge other taxes, and receive contributions from the government?

That is understandable and justifiable, and shouldn´t impose reregister fees and a new ITB expence. (ITB= Inspección Tecnica de Buques)

Is there another reason?

Un saludo

Don Quijote del Mar
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