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Buying and selling yachts from outside the U.S.

If you own a yacht that was built and/or purchased outside of the U.S., it's essential to be in compliance with federal laws if you're going to sell the vessel to a U.S. citizen. It's also important to know what the requirements are if the yacht was made in the U.S. but flies a foreign flag.

U.S. Customs officials are looking more closely at foreign yachts being brought into this country. If you're selling a foreign-built yacht to an American citizen, you must obtain an entry summary to prove that you paid the correct import duty. That's U.S. Customs form 7501. Yacht brokers need to ensure that any vessel they find for a client can be legally sold in this country.

Of course, many people here in Rhode Island and in other coastal areas bring in vessels for boat show season. You can buy a boat show bond for any yacht over 79 feet. These bonds, which are valid for six months, allow you to sell it to an American buyer without that buyer having to pay import duties. It's important to know that the yacht can't be sold to an American buyer after the show if that person wasn't in contact with the vessel during the show.

If you purchase a bond, you need to make sure that it's properly closed out after the show. If it isn't closed before it expires, you'll have to pay duty on the yacht. There are no extensions on these bonds.

If you have a yacht that was built in the U.S., but flies the flag of another country, you need to have the documentation proving that it was purchased in the U.S. Otherwise, it will be considered an exported good and must be re-imported. If you purchased it outside of the country, you must re-import it by filing a U.S. Goods Returned entry.

By following customs regulations, you can save yourself considerable money, time and legal hassle. It's worthwhile to seek the guidance of a Rhode Island attorney who is experienced in admiralty and maritime law, and specifically in handling these transactions.

Source: The Triton, "How to keep yacht listings compliant with U.S. Customs," Oct. 17, 2016

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