Year after year there is plenty of chat about what needs to change and how, but when it comes to taking steps to initiate action, everyone seems to go quiet.
However, the popular gripe relating to complexity and misapplication of tax levies on the purchase and operation of yachts has gathered such traction in recent times that it seems the industry is in danger of breaking with tradition and actually doing something about it.
The Superyacht Group took the issue to Brussels, quite literally, with its inaugural Superyacht Fiscal Management Meeting in 2013 and this appeared to garner a collective will among attendees to start trying to rectify the way duties are applied to yachts.
This year we again revisited the topic, this time in Monaco, and what was apparent was the acceptance of CSPs and advisors that taxation is a reality and it can no longer be avoided (or evaded).
Far better, it was agreed, is to lobby the European Commission to apply taxes to yachts correctly and fairly so that a yacht-specific fiscal regime can eventually be established and owners and charters alike can traverse European jurisdictions without fear of egregious treatment on arrival in port.
We heard from the European Boating Industry, which through a joint initiative with MYBA, is working on a research project that can be presented to the EU outlining the value the leisure marine industry creates across the continent. This is a worthy cause, as it is only by presenting tangible evidence that we can hope to make politicians sit up and take notice of what is a drop in the policymaking ocean.
One disappointing element of this year’s meeting however, considering its location – in Monaco, was the lack of charter managers and sales brokers in attendance. While there were a number of enthusiastic participants from some of the big names, the apparent apathy towards the fiscal question is a problem the industry must tackle in 2015.
On to more upbeat ground, and the work of a brave few in Spain was the shining example of positive action to the industry of 2014. Through collective lobbying an alliance of Spanish industry stakeholders have taken significant steps to removing barriers to entry that have, up to now, stifled the growth of the Spanish market.
Their work, which has served to educate municipal governments to the direct economic benefits that a thriving superyacht industry will afford, has been heard. And now, across the nation, reform of existing tax mechanisms is afoot.
Building on this renewed optimism at the Global Superyacht Forum, the fiscal workshop, which was led by Mischon de Reya’s Stephen Coleclough, who himself has brought a refreshing ‘can do’ attitude to proceedings, was a picture of enthusiasm and agreement.
While the content of the workshop was off-the-record, I can say that a number of very respected industry figures were wholehearted in their support for measures that would see the industry finance, undertake and publish analysis that can be used as a tool for change at governmental level, something unprecedented in this industry’s short history.
Tax may sound boring, but it’s important, and these are genuinely exciting times as we push for change. Next stop is our 2015 fiscal meeting, details of which will be announced soon. Those who care about the future of the industry should take an interest; click here to register for event details as soon as they become available.
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