Importing and VAT

Talk to me about importing from Europe and how that works with VAT. Would I pay VAT on top of the price of the horse? I know nothing about how this works, since we do not have VAT over here in the US.

I have imported two horses from Spain and, many years ago, one from Holland. Never paid any VAT - I think it was probably included in the sales price.

VAT is not included in the sales price. It’s an additional fee on top of the price like any sales tax that we have in the States-- just a very high one.

US buyers don’t pay it at all if the horse is going to be imported to the US. There’s a specified time frame in which it needs to ship in order to avoid the VAT. If it stays in Europe beyond that, they will want their tax. But it’s not immediate, and it is possible to purchase a young horse over there and board it with the breeder or some other farm, to let it grow up a little on pasture, before shipping it over. Lots of people do that. If you want to board there, and avoid paying the VAT, you need to know the time limit because I believe it varies by Country.


He is definitely coming here ASAP, very within the 90 day limit. This is good to know! I had never heard of anyone paying VAT for the horses the import, not my coach, not her clients, not my friends, so it gave me pause when the seller gave me an invoice with the VAT at the bottom. Thank you!

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Check that the seller knows you, as an American importing the horse, will not be paying VAT. The regime varies slightly from country to country and there is usually a time limit to reclaim any tax paid.

I did a quick search on VAT recovery - yikes. Sounds like bureaucratic hell. No thanks.

Not true. Prices are quoted including VAT and buyers exporting the goods should expect a reduction in the quoted price in the amount of the VAT. The vendor in the country of origin sorts it out with the revenue on their monthly return.

Maybe that’s true of some brokers.

I have only negotiated prices with breeders in Germany directly, and VAT was not part of the negotiated horse prices we discussed. I specifically asked, and was specifically told that it was not.

I also have friends who’ve bought from brokers in Germany & Denmark, and the value added tax that they didn’t have to pay because they imported the animal was a percentage above (average 21%) and beyond the stated/listed horse prices. As was the fee to the brokers which they DID have to pay. This includes someone who purchased a horse from Helgstrand they intended to keep in the EU, and who eventually shipped it to the States and then back in order to avoid the VAT.

So yes, true. For me and my set of friends this tax was extra to the horse prices. It may not be for everyone. Maybe the OP can come back to the thread and tell us whether it was (or is going to be) subtracted from the total, in her case?

Here’s a short explanation

That is for importing into The EU. The discussion is about importing to the USA from the EU.

“When exporting goods you will need to provide documentation as proof that the goods were transported outside the EU. Such proof could be provided by presenting a copy of an invoice, a transportation document or an import customs record to your tax authorities.
You will need to provide this proof to be able to fully deduct any receivable VAT that you have paid in a previous related transaction leading up to the export. Insufficient documentation may mean you won’t have the right to a VAT reimbursement when exporting goods.”

As normal, EU regulations are tortuous. If you are an EU vendor you have to provide proof that you have charged VAT (it is a legal requirement), then you have to claim it back from your revenue service when you provide proof of export.
That includes horse dealers.
That does not mean that the vendor cannot send you an invoice without VAT and send one to the revenue service including VAT.

Moral; check if the VAT is included in the quoted price. If it is, the vendor has screwed you.

The price quoted to me was without VAT. After the seller and I agreed on the sale price of the horse, the invoice she sent me included VAT. I approached the seller regarding the VAT she added to the invoice, and after she discussed with her accountant, they removed the VAT from the invoice - I am American and the horse is going to America within 90 days - no VAT. There is no broker fee for me, because I am dealing directly with the seller. So my total price was simply the accepted offer.

I guess that’s one way to do it, if the round-trip shipping is less than what you’d pay for VAT. Poor horse.

I have imported a large number of horses and only paid VAT one time - from a seller of a single horse who didn’t have extensive experience with export.

The VAT recovery process is not difficult if you know what documents you need to get from the seller ahead of time.

Thanks Merisdoats. Your example is another that backs up what I said and what we were then told was “not true.”

And yes, at 21% of purchase price the VAT would have been much higher than was the roundtrip to Florida and a few months training there during a Spring season, which is what they did to avoid it.