Motorboat & Yachting: Widespread use of Green Diesel by leisure boaters in Ireland has led to a European Court of Justice summons. The Irish government is being taken to court by the European Commission (EC) over the use of Green Diesel by leisure boat owners.
Green Diesel is a form of marked fuel, similar to Red Diesel in the UK, which benefits from a reduced tax rate. It is meant to be used by working fishing boats only, but as many leisure boaters in Ireland use Green Diesel as they rely on the fishing community’s refuelling points.
In theory, leisure boat owners are meant to file a tax return at the end of the year and pay the difference to the government. However, the EC has said that the low number of tax returns filed show that this is not happening in many cases.
In a statement, the EC warned of the consequences: “Private leisure boats cannot only use fuel intended for fishing vessels but also risk heavy penalties if they travel to another Member State and the boat is inspected by the local authorities.”
The European body warned the Irish government to close this loophole in a memo published in April, but a lack of response has led to legal action.
Harry Hermon, chief executive of the Irish Sailing Association, said that setting up separate fuelling points for leisure boaters is not a feasible option:
“It will be an enormous and costly task to create a network of ‘white’ diesel suppliers exclusively for leisure craft. The cost involved and the return would not be viable for suppliers.”
He added that any ban on Green Diesel would result in boat owners using their cars to carry jerry cans of fuel from petrol stations to their marina, a practice which is both dangerous and illegal.
In response to the possibility of prosecution overseas, Mr Hermon added: “The Irish Sailing Association has received no reports from any boats travelling abroad having difficulties as a result of the green diesel in their tanks.”
This news follows a similar development in the UK, which saw the EC challenge the British government over Red Diesel earlier this year.
Marine industry representatives met with the Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs officials yesterday to discuss the UK government’s current position on the continued supply and use of red diesel to private pleasure craft.
The British Marine Federation (BMF) and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) officials confirmed that UK government had not yet received formal notification from the European Commission confirming the latter’s intention to take UK government to the European Court of Justice, despite the announcement in mid July.
It is expected that formal confirmation would be received within the next few months. In the meantime there is no indication that the government intends to modify its longstanding supportive stance.
Currently, it is legal to purchase red diesel for propulsion, provided the full rate of duty is applied to fuel used for the purposes of navigation.It is also legal to red diesel use in pleasure craft in the UK for domestic purposes aboard a boat such as heating, lighting electricity generation, refrigeration, air conditioning or hot water, at the rebated rate of duty.
UK law does not require fuel distributors to have two separate fuel tanks to distinguish between the lower tax marked fuel and the fuel subject to the standard rate.
And the European Commission says ‘as a consequence, private leisure boats may not pay the right amount of tax.
‘BMF chief executive Howard Pridding and the federation’s head of external relations Brian Clark, both met with the HMRC officials on 31 July. Mr Clark said: ‘It’s important that we all work to ensure the continued availability of red diesel for recreational boating:
“We want to ensure members are not faced with having to make costly changes to their supply systems or hire fleets should the UK be forced to change to white diesel for private pleasure craft propulsion.”
‘Treasury and HMRC officials confirmed that they will continue to work with us and the RYA as the issue develops.
‘Gus Lewis, head of legal and government affairs at the RYA, said: ‘The crux of the matter is ensuring the continued availability of diesel for the leisure boating community.‘If the UK is forced to change to white diesel for recreational craft at the waterside suppliers will find it difficult to make the significant investment required to install additional tanks and pumps for white diesel.
‘It appears that the Commission’s primary concern relates to the colour of the fuel. Even with the 60:40 spilt UK boaters are paying on average 10% more duty that their French or Belgium counterparts.
Under EU rules, fuel that can benefit from a reduced tax rate has to be marked by coloured dye. Fishing vessels, for example, are allowed to benefit from a lower taxed fuel but private leisure boats must use fuel subject to a standard rate.
The European Commission (EC) is concerned that by not requiring two fuel separate tanks, private leisure boat owners in the UK are often in a situation where they can only purchase marked fuel.The EC believes that not only does this go against EU excise rules, but it also puts private boats at risk of heavy penalties if they are checked by local authorities when they travel to another Member State.
A spokesman for the EC said: ‘The Commission sent a Reasoned Opinion to the UK on this matter in May 2013.’Its failure to bring its legislation into compliance with EU law is the reason why the case is now being referred to the Court of Justice.
See full article at Pratical Boat Owner – click here