How Do I Import and Pay Duty on a Boat?

Story by Andrew Holland / April 30, 2018

When a US Flagged Vessel first makes her arrival into US Waters she is required to make what is known as a formal entry and pay US Duty and Import Tax due on the boat. When planning your formal entry into the US to pay duty, here are the steps that you will want to follow.

Notify Customs and Customs Agent of Your Arrival

First, you will need to contact US Customs and notify of them of your arrival and make them aware that you plan to make a formal entry into the US and pay Duty, or Import the vessel into the US . Once you notify Customs, you’ll then want to engage the services of a US Customs Agent who will purchase what is known as a TIB, or Temporary Import Bond, which covers your boat during the importation process.

Valuing Your Boat

The next step you will need to take is to place a value on the boat to determine the nominal figure at which the duty will be calculated. To do this, you will need to provide your customs agent with what is known as a “Pro-Forma Invoice”, value survey, or purchase agreement which provides the customs agent with an exact number to determine the tax due.

The Pro-Forma Invoice can be provided to your customs agent by a Licensed Yacht and Ship Broker or a Professional Surveyor.

Paying Duty

Once a value has been placed on the vessel, the customs agent can calculate the exact cost of Duty that will be due and provide the owner of the boat with an invoice and instructions on how to make payment to complete the importation of the vessel.

The items needed to import a yacht into the US as of April, 2018 are as follows.

  1. Bill of sale or Registration to show ownership
  2. A completed Pro-Forma invoice by a Licensed Yacht and Ship Broker or Professional Surveyor, A Value survey, or Executed Purchase and Sale Agreement to determine value at which duty will be assessed .
  3. EPA certification for the engines in the yacht.

EPA Certification required info:

  1. Make
  2. Model
  3. Model year
  4. Serial #’s
  5. Month and year of manufacture
  6. EPA engine family name
  7. Month/Day/Year ear of certification of engines.

The costs involved with an import on the vessel are as follows.

  1. Duty 1.5% X the value
  2. Merchandise processing tax .3464% X value w/ a cap of $497.99
  3. Import bond – Approximate Fee $500 – (Will Vary between Customs Agent)
  4. Harbor maintenance tax .00125 X value (if arriving as cargo and importing)
  5. EPA filing $75.00
  6. Miscellaneous Customs Fees assessed by Customs Agent – $400

Documentation and Clearance Papers

Once the Duty has been paid, the owner of the vessel will receive US Customs Clearance Paper known as an “Entry Summary” or CBP Form 7501, which shows Duty has been paid on the vessel. This document should be saved and kept onboard the vessel for the life of her ownership to show that she can cruise freely in US Waters as a Duty Paid vessel.

Does US Duty Paid Status Transfer to New Owners?

US Duty Paid status is transferable between owners so long as the boat maintains a US Flag and registration between sales.

If a boat is US Flagged and Duty paid only to changes flags and leave the US after a sale, if the boat is later sold to a new owner who wishes to reflag her US and bring back into the US the boat would be obligated to pay the duty again upon her re-arrival to the US.


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