6 Months Rule for Car Imports

The variations or rather interpretations of the 6 months rule are often fairly amazing so here is the real position regarding your LHD Car Import.

The 6 Month Rule and VAT

This one is often misinterpreted by buyers. Essentially the rule is pretty simple – Assuming you have paid VAT in a European Union member state then after 6 months or 6000km’s the car can be imported into another member state without having to pay any more VAT. Prior to this regardless of whether you have paid VAT or not you may/will be asked to pay the local VAT again which is why you would want to buy it tax free if this was the case. If you do buy it tax free and then keep it for 6 months you will still need to pay VAT when you come to register it. In essence VAT has to be paid once and not reclaimed after that no VAT is due again and despite what we are sometimes asked there is no import duty on intra-EU imports.

So here is an example: Mr Smith buys a new left hand drive Range Rover and registers and pays VAT in the UK initially. He moves to Spain where once the car is 6 months old he re-registers it only pays registration taxes and costs but no VAT. By contrast Mrs Jones buys a LHD Nissan Juke and is already resident in Spain so buys it tax free, drives it down to Spain where she immediately re-registers it and pays Spanish VAT plus registration taxes. Mr Boyce bought a tax free car and due to a change in his job didn’t end up moving to France but was later posted to Italy by the time he imported the tax free car it was 6 months old and had done 12000 km but still had to pay VAT in Italy because it had never been paid elsewhere.

The 6 Month Rule and Re-Registration

Again we see so many variations on this one and in real terms it comes down to “intention” Essentially you are allowed to keep a car on foreign plates for up to 6 months a year before exporting it or re-registering it. However, you aren’t automatically given 6 months grace. As an example, someone pay move to the UK to work by taking on a permanent contract with their employer their intention is to stay so they must re-register immediately. By contrast if you were visiting a country and didn’t know if you were going to stay or not then you effectively have 6 months to decide and if you were still unsure after 6 months you would have to export the vehicle or re-register it.

So here are some examples: Mrs Garcia moves to the UK with her Spanish registered Seat Leon to start working at a hospital. She has a permanent contract therefore she must re-register the car or export it immediately. Mr Anderson is looking to move to Spain but currently renting in Alicante whilst he looks for a possible property. He is able to keep his UK registered car there for 6 months before deciding to export it or re-register it. He stays in Spain longer but can’t register it because he doesn’t have the correct paperwork so has to export it back to the UK. Mr and Mrs Long have a house in the UK, France and Andorra. They spend approximately 4 months a year in each country. The car is a high co2 left hand drive Ford so decide that the UK is the cheapest place to maintain registration and that France is too expensive due to the emissions and horsepower and Andorra is complicated due to the customs position. They are entitled to keep it UK registered.

We hope this bring some clarity to an often misunderstood area and should you have any questions or queries feel free to get in touch with us even if not looking for a new car.