Update: Temporary Importation of Aircraft into the EU – New Developments

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Update: Temporary Importation of Aircraft into the EU – New Developments

Following changes to the 2011 permanent aircraft importation rules, when the UK was brought into line with other European Union (EU) member states, there have been lots of questions on how best to import aircraft into the EU.

Permanent importation is still very possible, and in some cases it is the best—and often the only—option. There is, however, no "one-size-fits-all" solution these days. Operators holding an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) can usually qualify as an airline if flying chiefly on international routes. This allows such operators to be treated at a 0% tax rate on import. There are also some business and trade options available to some operators depending on how their organizations are structured, and, if all criteria are met, there is another potential route for a permanent importation through Denmark where the AOC isn’t needed. Or the operator can pay the Value-Added Tax (VAT), in which case the operator should pick the EU state with the lowest VAT rate.

For those that choose not to permanently import the aircraft, Temporary Admission (TA) – otherwise known as a Temporary Importation (TI) – may be an option, but it does come with conditions and restrictions and can often be open to interpretation.

The following is an overview of what you need to know about TAs:

1. Temporary admission

A TA can simply be an oral declaration, and this is usually is the case. Many operators accomplish this without even knowing they are doing it. However, there are some complications – usually concerning the transport of EU passengers within the EU – that lead some to seek TA paperwork to support the oral declaration. Most countries don’t offer such documentation, but the UK does.

TAs carry conditions of use, but they can work well for private operations. They don’t work well for commercial operations.

More information on TA regulations can be found on the HM Revenue & Customs site.

2. Determining if your operation is private or commercial

A private business aircraft can operate within the EU, between EU countries with EU passengers on board, but a commercial flight can only operate in and out of the EU and not country to country. That’s simple enough, but there have been big issues for a while throughout the EU over the definition or the interpretation of "private" and "commercial" operations.

The EU doesn’t recognize U.S. designations for Part 91 or Part 135. Operations are generally seen as either private or commercial. Private leisure flying is clear in its definition and is allowed between EU states, but how should private "corporate" flights be treated? Is a private non-revenue corporate aircraft operating as private or commercial?

In the UK all corporate aircraft are treated as private, so there are no issues. However, in some parts of the EU – France and Germany in particular – corporate aircraft have at times been treated as commercial operations. An aircraft carrying marketing materials or company laptops on-board may be considered commercial in some customs officers’ eyes. However, if a corporate aircraft is carrying passengers for a business purpose, is that a commercial operation?

3. Private or commercial interpretation in the eyes of the EU Customs Code Committee

Recently, there was a significant breakthrough in this regard as the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) sought clarification from the European Commission (EC) Customs Code Committee on this point of interpretation.

IBAC presented a series of clear operating scenarios (see pages 5-7), and in all circumstances for each type of operation the part 91 corporate aircraft operations are viewed as private by the EC Customs Code Committee.

This is very welcome news. It will, however, take some time to filter through all member states and to the customs officers on the ground. For this reason it would be wise to carry this document on-board the aircraft when traveling in the EU.

It should be noted that the conditions surrounding TAs in the EU have not changed, and they remain as strict as ever. There is also still much unfamiliarity regarding the regulations governing TAs, and they may still be open to interpretation in some regards.

4. Additional reading

If would like to learn more about permanent and/or temporary importation of business aircraft into the EU, you can read our previously published articles:


The European Customs Code clarification is good news and should make for clearer interpretation of TA candidacy and validity. Permanent importation requires more work upfront but is less problematic once complete, so this option shouldn’t be ruled out. If you’re unsure which avenue may be best for your flight, it’s recommended that guidance be obtained from a lawyer specializing in these matters or from a reputable importation broker.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance with planning your next trip to Europe, contact us at seanraftery@universalaviation.aero or lauraeverington@univ-wea.com.

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With more than 20 years’ experience in the aviation services industry, most in the regulations arena, Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc. Sr. Manager, Government and Industry Affairs Laura Everington is recognized as one of the business aviation industry’s preeminent authorities on all U.S. and international regulations. Laura serves as a liaison to all the key regulatory bodies, including Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration, all of which regularly consult her for her opinion on rules creation. A naturally gifted orator, Laura, who joined Universal in 1990, is one of the industry’s most requested and respected speakers. By her own estimate, she has presented at more than 100 industry events around the globe on a variety of regulatory topics. She has also given countless interviews to the most read and respected business aviation trade publications. Laura, who is an acting member of the National Business Aviation Association’s Security Council, can be reached at lauraeverington@univ-wea.com.


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Sean Raftery has more than 30 years of aviation experience, including over 20 with Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc. Based in Stansted, United Kingdom, Sean was an airman in the Royal Air Force where he worked in air traffic control and squadron operations. In 2002, he was appointed Managing Director of Universal Aviation U.K. – London-Stansted and in 2010 took on the additional responsibilities as Managing Director of Ireland as well. Under Sean’s leadership, Universal Aviation U.K. – London-Stansted and Universal Aviation Ireland, with FBO locations at Dublin and Shannon, have continued to grow and add new services, including the European Operations Centre and a new fuelling into plane business in Dublin. Sean has also been instrumental in Universal Aviation continuing to upgrade its facilities and recently led efforts in Dublin to relocate the location to a new, larger facility while in Stansted he oversaw the complete refurbishment of Universal Aviation U.K. – London-Stansted in time for the ’12 Games in London. Well respected within the business aviation industry, Sean has worked closely with government officials to develop and implement industry leading Health and Safety practices and was highly instrumental in influencing the U.K. government for fairer and better immigration procedures for visiting business jet passengers. Sean can be reached at seanraftery@universalaviation.aero.

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