Red diesel fight to be referred to European Court of Justice

The European Commission will be taking the UK government to court over red diesel, it has been announced

The long-running dispute over the use of red diesel by leisure boats will be referred to the European Court of Justice.

The European Commission has announced plans to take the UK government to the Luxembourg court over its failure to properly enforce the law in this regard.

Red diesel is sold to fishermen and other commercial boaters at a lower tax rate, but private leisure boaters must carry documentation to prove that they have paid tax on any marked fuels used for propulsion.

However, the EC is unhappy about the current arrangement and has been pursuing the UK government since May 2013 to bring its affairs into line with EU law.

UK law does not require fuel vendors to have two separate tanks; one for red diesel, and one for fuel taxed at the normal rate.

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A statement from the EC said: “Private leisure boats may not pay the right amount of tax, as they purchase fuel normally intended for fishing vessels.

“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.”

The RYA’s current advice on purchasing red diesel is as follows:

  • Keep receipts for diesel purchased in the UK, to prove that it was bought in the UK, and request that your retailer marks them “duty paid”
  • You should also log the date of refuelling and engine hours to reinforce these records
  • Do not carry red diesel anywhere other than in your craft’s main fuel storage tanks;
  • Do not purchase red diesel in a country where the purchasing of rebated fuel by leisure craft is prohibited by law


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