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European Community Court of Justice Clarifies VAT Rules for Direct Services to Vessels

As reported last year, on 1 January 2016, as per the Bulletin Officiel des Finances Publiques-impôts of 12/05/15, French tax law made it mandatory for all companies wishing to exonerate services carried out to meet “the direct needs of vessels and their cargo” from VAT in accordance with article 262, II-2, 3, 6 and 7 of the French General Tax Code, to obtain a signed affidavit from the said vessel, which as you will see from this link to our translation, states that the vessel is:

  • commercially registered. For non-French-flagged vessels, the term registration means recognition by a foreign authority of a vessel’s assignment to a commercial activity;
  • manned by a permanent crew;
  • assigned to a commercial activity;
  • and that at least 70% of its total navigation takes place outside French territorial waters.

New Development:

We have just been notified by the association of French ship agents (AMCF) that, in a decision dated 4 May 2017, the European Community Court of Justice further clarified that:

1. Article 148(d) of Council Directive 2006/112/EC of 28 November 2006 on the common system of value added tax must be interpreted as meaning that the loading and unloading of cargo are services supplied for the direct needs of the cargo of the vessels referred to in Article 148(a) thereof.

2. (…) Article 148(d) of Directive 2006/112 must be interpreted as meaning that, first, not only supplies of services concerning loading or unloading of cargo onto or from a vessel covered by Article 148(a) of that directive which take place at the end of the commercial chain of a such service may be exempt, but also supplies of an economic operator which then re-invoices them to a freight forwarder or transporter and, second, services for loading.

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