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Old 09-17-2017, 08:44 PM   #1
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Purchasing a Canadian boat for U.S. owner

Can anyone tell me what additional costs, custom fees, taxes or red tape is involved in purchasing a boat from a Canadian seller and bringing it to the U.S. for homeport and registration? We're in Washington State and looking at B.C.
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Old 09-17-2017, 10:35 PM   #2
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There's really two sides to that question ,Arrival formalities then importation if she is staying in the US,

Arrival:

1) The master of a pleasure boat must report to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immediately upon arriving into the United States from a foreign port or place and must provide a formal vessel entry on CBP Form 1300 within 48 hours. He will also need to report any foreign merchandise on his boat that is subject to duty.
2) The CBP has implemented the Small Vessel Reporting System(SVRS) to improve the security of our nation's borders while enhancing legitimate travel specifically for small boaters. For information on how to enroll, use the SVRS Enrollment Form and/or call 1-800-432-1216 for additional question about SVRS registration.
3) A cruising license exempt pleasure boats of certain countries from having to undergo formal entry and clearance procedures and can be obtained from the CBP Port Director at the first port of arrival in the United States. U.S. pleasure craft and foreign-flag vessels without a cruising license, which are 30 feet or longer in length, must pay an annual fee of $27.50 for the user fee decal. User Fee Decals may be purchased online through the CBP Web site.
4)While vessels that receive the CBP Cruising License may have some CBP reporting requirements reduced, the license does not exempt these vessels from the requirements for filing the Notice of Arrival (NOA) with the National Vessel Movement Center (NVMC) with the U.S. Coast Guard. Under Title 33 Code of Federal Regulations, part 160.202 and160.203, foreign recreational vessels over 300 GT are required to file a NOA with NVMC prior to arrival into the US. More information on the reporting requirements can be found at https://www.nvmc.uscg.gov/NVMC/default.aspx.

Importation

1)To import a personal boat into the United States, the following documents should be submitted to the CBP Officer at the Port of Entry:

- Proof of ownership such as a bill of sale.

- Proof the boat conforms to EPA Standards. Complete Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Engine Declaration Form 3520-21. For questions regarding the EPA Form and regulations call (734) 214-4100 or email them at imports@epa.gov.

2)Rates of Duty: Pleasure boats are generally dutiable when imported into the United States. The following duty rates apply to boats imported for recreational purposes:

-Sailboats and motorboats other than outboard motorboats: 1.5 percent

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Old 09-17-2017, 11:40 PM   #3
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Unless the boat was built in the US, Canada or Mexico whereby it falls under NAFTA and is duty free.
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Old 09-17-2017, 11:52 PM   #4
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Have the seller deliver the boat to the US, do the import paper work with Customs, then finalize the sale in the US, other wise you may get stuck with BC taxes. Hopefully the boat is of US or Canadian origin. Mexico built OK, but I do not think they have built any! If built elsewhere duty would be charged, which I think is different for different countries. I bought. Canadian built boat a decade ago, and that is the way it was handled. Import tax was not much, 1% maybe.
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:42 AM   #5
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Can anyone tell me what additional costs, custom fees, taxes or red tape is involved in purchasing a boat from a Canadian seller and bringing it to the U.S. for homeport and registration? We're in Washington State and looking at B.C.
Make it easy on yourself. Use someone like these folks. They are very good. i was very happy with them.

http://www.pacificmaritimetitle.com/index.html

They can answer your queries with accurate info with a phone call, and using them for the funds transfer/settlement/title process gives you a lot of peace of mind.
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Old 09-18-2017, 11:21 AM   #6
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There are a few other countries that qualify for no import duty when importing a boat into the US, such as Turkey, so it is important to use professionals who know what they are doing. You will need a customs broker anyway even if it US built returned goods.
If it is a US built boat find out where the seller "closed" on the boat when he bought it. If it was in the US instead of in Canada then possibly it was never "exported from US commerce" even it if it was registered in Canada.
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:25 PM   #7
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Make it easy on yourself. Use someone like these folks. They are very good. i was very happy with them.

Pacific Maritime Title

They can answer your queries with accurate info with a phone call, and using them for the funds transfer/settlement/title process gives you a lot of peace of mind.
I used them for my last purchase. It was not international, but they were very helpful and do a lot of cross-border transactions.

Also remember that you will pay a hefty Use tax when you register the boat in WA.
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:35 PM   #8
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Thanks to all who took the time to reply; this is extremely helpful and clear. I'm looking at Grand Banks, so not subject to NAFTA duty free. I'm contacting CBP and USCG to get a grip on the forms, paperwork and arrival protocol. I like the idea of delivery to the US by the seller; that seems to simplify things. And I will check out customs broker assistance. Thanks!
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Old 09-18-2017, 12:46 PM   #9
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My current boat was Canadian owned, but US built. The Canadian registry has builders facts wrong. After fixing that, the rest was easy. The US Customs at your port of entry likes to know who or what is coming in advance and your arrival date.
I entered at Port Angeles, WA with handfuls of papers because the fix to the builders info was in progress. I had zero problems, probably because I was expected I called on arrival, the customs agent came to where I was docked, even filled out the custom papers, and charged me $12.50. My residence of record is Oregon, so no sales tax.
On documentation, you can pay a service about $500 or take your papers to a local USCG office and do it for whatever the current fee is. Zero when I crossed.
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Old 09-18-2017, 04:15 PM   #10
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Check the history of the boat and see if it had been imported into the US in the past. It might have been imported with duty paid by a US dealer and depending upon subsequent closing locations ( in US or Canada) the original US duty may still be valid. However a copy of the US customs ENTRY SUMMARY must still be available, there is no way to find it by hull number. There must be a good paper trail.
US duty is only 1.5% at the worst, plus customs brokers fees, so it may not be a major expense overall.
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Old 09-18-2017, 08:13 PM   #11
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Always worth using a professional on any cross border transaction, any import. They know all the ins and outs and have done it many times.
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Old 10-25-2017, 04:52 PM   #12
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A late response but I just did this. We bought a BC-built boat and imported it into Washington.

I called and spoke with the CBP folks in Pt Roberts, Anacortes, and Friday Harbor. All answers were slightly different! Here's what was pointed out to me:

1. The Pt Roberts folks are really a land crossing with no expertise or experience in vessel importation, only entry.
2. The Anacortes folks are experts at oil tankers and commercial fishing boats, so they reflexively state that a broker is needed.
3. The Friday Harbor folks are the most experienced in pleasure vessel importation, and have it down pat. Note that, while Roche Harbor is listed as one of the US ports of entry, you can't actually IMPORT the vessel there; it has to be Friday Harbor.

The CBP staff at Friday Harbor have developed a checklist and they emailed it to me. After much research, both in the US and in Canada, here's what I learned.

1. If you purchase the vessel in Canada, you'll be liable for sales tax. This is now called the "Harmonized Sales Tax" and is 12%, combining the old Provincial Sales Tax (7%) and the federal Goods and Services Tax (5%). The old Visitor Rebate Program went away in 2007, so you can't apply for a rebate.
2. If you purchase from a BC broker (a "PST Registrant"), they'll collect the tax.
3. If you purchase from a private party who is not a PST Registrant, it's up to you to voluntarily pay the tax. For BC residents, this 12% tax is collected by ICBC at the time the vehicle is insured & registered. For non-residents...well...you're not going to register or insure it in BC, so....
4. If you take delivery of the vessel OUTSIDE BC, you are not liable for the tax. However, you may not be aboard the vessel nor may you have a family member or friend do the delivery. It must be either professionally delivered or delivered by the seller.
5. Of course, you're going to pay Washington Use Tax when you register the vessel here. There is no way to avoid that. It varies by local jurisdiction, and will be something like 8-8.5% or so.

Now, it's a bit complicated if you purchase through a broker and have the boat professionally delivered to the USA. In that case, the CBP folks say that you MUST use a US broker at this end of the transaction.

But if you bring it in yourself FOR PERSONAL USE it's a very straightforward process, provided that you've done your homework. Here's what the Friday Harbor folks have put together as a checklist:

a. There is no cost for self-importation.
b. The owner should be aboard the vessel as it enters the US or at the dock awaiting its arrival.
c. You need Proof of Ownership showing a bona fide value. A Bill of Sale satisfies this requirement. I used the USCG Bill of Sale (form CG-1340). NOTE: this form has a box for "Consideration Received," which is sales price. But it also says "One dollar and other valuable consideration unless otherwise stated." YOU MUST STATE THE ACTUAL SALES PRICE.
d. You need the vessel's current license/registration in Canada. Note that vessels in Canada are not "titled" like we're used to, but are "licensed" in the province. This license, together with the previous bill of sale from whomever the owner bought the vessel from, forms the proof of ownership. Like our documentation, vessels may also be "registered" on the Canadian Registry of Vessels. If this is the case, you'll need the seller to provide you with a "Certificate of Deregistration" proving that the vessel has been removed from the registry before you can document it in the US. If you're not going to document it you don't need this certificate.
e. Evidence of origin is required, such as a Hull Identification Number, Certificate of Origin, Canadian federal registration documents, builder's statement, etc. They're not too uptight about this; our boat was only one of six or seven built by a guy 40 years ago, and had neither HIN nor any sort of original builder's certificates. We used the above documents plus a survey form that identified what the vessel was (i.e., built in BC) in order to establish that it would be covered under NAFTA.
f. Proof the vessel conforms to EPA standards. Our boat is 41 years old, so this was moot. If the vessel is older than 21 years OR if it originated in the US it doesn't need this. If the vessel is less than 21 years old and originally came from Canada, you'll need to read this: https://www.epa.gov/importing-vehicl...adian-vehicles. If it's older than 21 and was built outside of the US or Canada, you'll need to read this: https://www.epa.gov/importing-vehicl...es-and-engines. EPA form 3520-21 will be needed.
g. Bring along a completed form CBP 7501, "Entry Summary." This form is rather complicated because it's designed for commercial importers. Just download the instructions and follow them, box by box. If you're not sure of something, leave it blank and the CBP folks will fill it in for you.
h. Also bring a completed form CBP 1300, "Vessel Entrance or Clearance Statement." It's pretty straightforward, but they'll help you complete any blanks that you leave.

They're open seven days a week for processing entries, but they only do the importation process Monday through Friday. They request 48 hours' advance notice. I called several times as the day drew near so they were expecting us. Other folks were there in the office who hadn't followed the checklist to the letter and things were quite complicated for them. For us it was easy-peasy. Total cost of this process? ZERO. Of course, if your vessel comes with a dinghy or trailer, those require separate documentation in order to title them in Washington. Some other folks in the office did the transaction and only had to pay duty on the Japanese-built outboard motor on the dink.

We had an extremely positive experience with this process. The usual disclaimers apply: I am not a licensed broker nor do I have any sort of professional knowledge or experience with vessel importation; your mileage may vary. But the Friday Harbor CBP folks are really great to work with and genuinely interested in helping boaters out. They simply require that you follow some pretty simple instructions.
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Old 10-25-2017, 07:56 PM   #13
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d. You need the vessel's current license/registration in Canada. Note that vessels in Canada are not "titled" like we're used to, but are "licensed" in the province.

Very good how to!
However may you give more details about the sentence above? What do you mean by titled versus licensed?
We have two ways of registration, either registered in the province in what case you have an immatriculation number like QC12344668 where QC is the province identifier, or we have a national registration, commonly named “blue book” where the boat is identified by her unique name. Is it what you mean by titled?

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Old 10-25-2017, 07:58 PM   #14
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Anson and Donna

Sounds like you did a lot of work on it. Now, was it easier and cheaper than just using a good documentation agent who knows all the things you had to learn?
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Old 10-25-2017, 10:24 PM   #15
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My current boat was bought in Canada, Canadian registered, but US built. The Canadians had the papers all screwed up, wrong builder, build date. It took 9 months to sort out the paper work, but entered the US early in the process. Entered at Port Angeles, notified customs prior to entering. They like to know who's coming. Customs were very helpful considering the title was a handful of copies, various papers and letters. Customs agent met me at the fuel dock, filled out the form himself and charged me $12.50 my total cost. I'm an Oregon resident, so no sales tax. I don't remember the documentation fee, but minor. And done 9 months later. But the boat still had the US documentation number in the hull and I had real records of the builder.
You can do all the transfer and registration yourself or there are agents that do it for you at about $500-1000. Broker should have a list of agents.
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Old 10-26-2017, 01:20 AM   #16
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Very good how to!
However may you give more details about the sentence above? What do you mean by titled versus licensed?
We have two ways of registration, either registered in the province in what case you have an immatriculation number like QC12344668 where QC is the province identifier, or we have a national registration, commonly named “blue book” where the boat is identified by her unique name. Is it what you mean by titled?

L
Lou, the boat we bought from a British Columbia resident was licensed. The document was a "Pleasure Craft Licence, Permission d'Embarcations de Plaisance." It's licensed by the province and carries a number, as you say, starting with BC, QC, etc. In the USA the boat also carries a similar number when "registered" with the state; ours now has a WN number for Washington. But, unlike Canada, the vessel also carries a title, just like a house or real estate. This is how we prove ownership, whereas the boat we just bought used a "transfer of ownership" license document to prove ownership.

Adding a boat to the Canadian Registry of Vessels, each with a unique name, is equivalent to our US Coast Guard "documentation."
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Old 10-26-2017, 01:24 AM   #17
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Anson and Donna

Sounds like you did a lot of work on it. Now, was it easier and cheaper than just using a good documentation agent who knows all the things you had to learn?
Well, it cost me exactly zero dollars...only my time...and now I have knowledge and experience that I previously lacked, plus the satisfaction of doing it myself.

Should I feel guilty about taking the food out of the mouth of some broker's child?
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Old 10-26-2017, 03:35 AM   #18
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[QUOTE=Sabre602;604624]A late response but I just did this. We bought a BC-built boat and imported it into Washington.


*I HOPE THESE CORRECTIONS TO THAT VERY THOROUGH POST BY SABRE602 HELP, RATHER THAN CONFUSE*

1. If you purchase the vessel in Canada, you'll be liable for sales tax. This is now called the "Harmonized Sales Tax" and is 12%, combining the old Provincial Sales Tax (7%) and the federal Goods and Services Tax (5%). The old Visitor Rebate Program went away in 2007, so you can't apply for a rebate.

*IF YOU ARE BUYING IN BC, THE "HST" HAS BEEN LOST (TOO LONG AND SAD A STORY) AND YOU ARE NOW LIABLE FOR THE OLD "GST" OF 5% AND THE OLD "PST" OF 7%, EACH PAYABLE SEPARATELY, BUT, AVOIDABLE IF YOU WAIT FOR #4 BELOW. IF YOU ARE BUYING IN ANY OTHER PROVINCE, THE RATE OF GST WILL STILL BE 5% BUT THE PST OR THE PST PORTION OF THE HST MAY VARY FROM PROVINCE TO PROVINCE. ALBERTA IS PRESENTLY FREE OF PST, THOUGH THAT MAY NOT LAST.*

3. If you purchase from a private party who is not a PST Registrant, it's up to you to voluntarily pay the tax. For BC residents, this 12% tax is collected by ICBC

*ICBC DOESN'T DO BOATS, SO THE TAXES ARE COLLECTED BY SERVICE CANADA at the time the *vessel* is *LICENSED OR BY TRANSPORT CANADA AT THE TIME IT IS * registered. For non-residents...well...you're not going to register or insure it in BC, so....

4. If you take delivery of the vessel OUTSIDE BC, you are not liable for the tax. However, you may not be aboard the vessel nor may you have a family member or friend do the delivery. It must be either professionally delivered or delivered by the seller.

d. You need the vessel's current license/registration in Canada. Note that
*SOME* vessels in Canada are not "titled" like we're used to, but are "licensed" in the province.

*THESE WILL DISPLAY A LICENSE NUMBER, SUCH AS 13K12345 OR BC12345 AND MAY ALSO DISPLAY A BOAT NAME.*

This license, together with the previous bill of sale from whomever the owner bought the vessel from, forms the proof of ownership. Like our documentation, vessels may also be "registered" on the Canadian Registry of Vessels. If this is the case, you'll need the seller to provide you with

*THE BLUE BOOK, AS MODIFIED BY*

a "Certificate of Deregistration" proving that the vessel has been removed from the registry before you can document it in the US. If you're not going to document it you don't need this certificate.

OTHERWISE, A VERY THOROUGH AND INFORMATIVE POST.

The process for importing from the US into Canada is very similar, with each government trying to cover the same bases.
I brought a used dinghy in from Washington state a few years ago and did not have to pay any duty on the value of the used outboard, though it was built in Japan, or on the dinghy itself, though it was built in Venezuela, as I was not importing directly from either of those places. I believe the rules are not well understood in the smaller Customs offices and the incorrect interpretation is frequently applied, that being the one requiring duty if the item is originally not built in a NAFTA country. A lot of attention was given to the trailer that I had borrowed, licensed in BC, and to my explanation that I had taken the trailer down empty.
I recently had the same experience importing a used German car from the US to Canada. I crossed at the Douglas Crossing, where all importations into BC from the I-5 route pass through one of the busiest and most knowledgeable Customs offices in the country.
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Old 10-26-2017, 08:07 AM   #19
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@koliver: Thanks, Keith, for the clarification and elaboration from north of the border. I appreciate the opportunity to shed light on things like this for the benefit of others. My choice of boat was actually choice #2 after I had fallen in love with a gorgeous Ennos in Nanaimo. The owner and I really hit it off and were in full agreement about the sale but his nitwit broker spooked the guy's wife with fears that selling south of the border was going to fill their lives with all manner of complication and woe. The broker pretty much told me that the transaction was impossibly difficult and told the sellers the same thing.

I mean, "children of a common mother," right?
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Old 10-26-2017, 09:41 AM   #20
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Well, it cost me exactly zero dollars...only my time...and now I have knowledge and experience that I previously lacked, plus the satisfaction of doing it myself.

Should I feel guilty about taking the food out of the mouth of some broker's child?
I guess I never get beyond putting a value on my time. The amount of time and effort you spent I would probably value at $2-3,000 and then consider using the professional cheaper. lol. Plus know I wasn't missing anything using a documentation service. Still, it worked for you. Appears you enjoyed the effort and pursuit so perhaps right in not assigning a cost to the time as it was pleasure, not work.
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