Malta has always been at the forefront of offering solid, reliable solutions to yacht owners depending on their individual requirements and the intended use of their yacht. The first half of 2020 has seen the introduction of updated rules affecting operating leases and streamlined importation procedures, offering owners the possibility of availing themselves of a number of solutions and procedures catering to their individual requirements. Given the delay in the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this article highlights these developments for owners that are taking delivery of or importing their yachts over the coming months.
Improved importation procedures
For many years Malta has offered an efficient and attractive procedure for the importation of commercial yachts that are intended to be brought into free circulation within the European Union so as to enable them to carry out their chartering season in the Mediterranean. The introduction of the following measures earlier in 2020 was intended to further strengthen the procedure governing the importation of commercial yachts in Malta:
- Deferment of value added tax (VAT) on the importation of commercial yachts by Maltese owning entities with a Maltese VAT registration without the requirement of the importing entity setting up a bank guarantee as required in the past.
- Deferment of VAT on the importation of commercial yachts by EU owning entities with a Maltese VAT registration provided that the company appoints a VAT representative in Malta in terms of Article 66(2)(b) of the VAT Act without the requirement of the importing entity setting up a bank guarantee as required in the past.
- Deferent of VAT on the importation of commercial yachts by non-EU owning entities on provision by the importing entity of a bank guarantee in an amount equivalent to VAT on 0.75% of the value of the yacht which would in all cases be subject to a cap of €1 million.
Updated guidelines relating to use and enjoyment by yacht lessees
On 12 March 2020, the commissioner for inland revenue published revised guidelines regarding the place of supply of the hiring of pleasure yachts. The guidelines establish the manner in which the use and enjoyment of such pleasure yachts is to be treated for VAT purposes.
While the general principle is that full taxation in Malta applies where the place of supply of the service is determined to be Malta, the guidelines provide for a method of adjustment based on the actual effective use and enjoyment of a pleasure yacht in and outside EU waters. The revised guidelines establish that this is to be calculated by reference to the period of time when the pleasure yacht is used and enjoyed outside EU territorial waters.
For the purpose of applying the guidelines, the lessee must provide the lessor with documentary or technological data to determine the actual effective use and enjoyment by the lessee of the pleasure yacht in and outside EU territorial waters during the lease period.
The guidelines may be used within the context of operating leases that are set up under Maltese law.
Updated practices in application of operating leases
Malta has built a formidable reputation in catering to owners’ needs while constantly taking into account industry practice and legal developments. This has led to Malta being a go-to jurisdiction for the setting up of operating leases. Such operating leases are formulated in accordance with best practices to ensure compliance with EU interpretations and European Court of Justice judgments and would generally comprise the following principles:
- A Maltese shipping organisation would be set up as the owner of the yacht (the lessor), which would lease the yacht to another entity (the lessee).
- The place of supply of the yacht would be Malta.
- The yacht would be available to a lessee for consideration for a specified period.
- General principles relating to intra-community supplies and importations at the time of acquisition of the yacht by the lessor and place of supply rules at the time of the supply of the yacht to the lessee will apply.
- The lease period and the consideration paid to the lessor by the lessee for the use of the yacht are commercial decisions that are established contractually between the parties.
- Such decisions would be based on an assessment of the type of yacht involved, its specifications and value, together with the prevailing market conditions.
- The lessee would pay VAT on a quarterly basis on the monthly lease instalments to the lessor.
- Subject to a number of conditions being satisfied, the VAT department would, on a request to that effect, issue a letter confirming that the lessor has declared and is accounting for VAT on the lease of such yacht in Malta.
By Alison Vassallo at Fenech & Fenech Advocates www.fenechlaw.com.