Owners Need Brexit Plan for Their Aircraft

 - September 3, 2019, 8:16 AM

With a “No Deal” Brexit looming and the UK’s chances of backing out of the European Union (EU) at the end of October being higher than ever, Martin Fiddler Aviation has urged business aircraft owners to ensure they have planned for possible value added tax (VAT) issues relating to aircraft operating into the EU.

“The approval of a suspension of Parliament by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on August 28 will be seen by many as the final step for the UK to leave the European Union on October 31 without a deal in place for future trade and customs relations,” said the UK/Isle of Man-based business aircraft import specialist. “Without a deal, the UK will leave the EU customs union and will no longer be part of the EU VAT system. Similarly, the EU will no longer be part of the UK’s customs area and VAT system; the result being two separate customs and tax areas.”

Under “possible outcomes,” Martin Fiddler’s analysis—released in summary form to the industry last week—states: “At the time of writing there is no agreement in place to determine what the status of goods (including business aircraft) imported into the EU before October 31, 2019, will be."

This might result in “grandfathering,” where anything imported before Brexit will retain its free circulation status after Brexit; a “Moment of Brexit” approach, whereby an aircraft’s physical location at the moment of Brexit determines whether it is UK or EU imported (this is only applicable to aircraft already in free circulation); or temporary admission, meaning the UK, Isle of Man, and Channel Islands-registered aircraft which were previously unable to use temporary admission are now able to use this option when operating to points in the EU.

“If the aircraft regularly flies within the territories of the UK and EU (i.e. point to point within each territory), it is highly likely that the aircraft will need to be imported into each area,” according to the company. However, if a grandfathering arrangement is agreed, then dual importation will only become an issue for imports after October 31.

If importation into the EU is required, it is possible to do this without an EU corporate structure “if the aircraft is used predominantly for the business use of its corporate owner.” For example, those with a UK (or Isle of Man) aircraft ownership structures could do this, where they need to go further than a temporary admission.

The company notes that the Isle of Man shares a VAT system with the UK, “allowing VAT relief on the purchase price of an aircraft in certain circumstances if it is bought and used as part of a business.” However, if the UK leaves the EU, the Isle of Man will no longer have the benefit of the UK’s EU membership status with respect to VAT and free circulation.

To the question, “This all seems very expensive, do I have to do this?” Martin Fiddler responds: “Unfortunately, a no-deal Brexit situation will impact aircraft owners, and the financial consequences of not resolving the aircraft’s free circulation status could result in aircraft being grounded while the situation is assessed; payment of VAT on the value of the aircraft (ranging from 17 to 27 percent) being required before an aircraft can travel further; or a penalty fine of up to 100 percent of VAT due if an aircraft enters the EU without an import declaration.

“While the process of re-examining the import status of your aircraft is frustrating, it is better (and more cost-efficient) than being found wanting by customs officers.”