Both foreign flagged yachts, as well as national flagged boats are in most EU nations subject to inspections by customs to verify, amongst others, if VAT commitments have been met.
In the majority of the EU states a VAT Declaration issued by the national tax authorities or original invoice is accepted by customs. In Croatia and particularly Portugal, the VAT Declaration is not enough.
The T2L Document saga
Besides a VAT Declaration, which would be an obvious requirement, yachts are required to show a so-called T2L document. Portuguese customs are adamant, despite formal protest from their counterparts in other EU states, and hefty fines are within reach if the proper documents cannot be produced.
Mind you, the Portuguese authorities do not discriminate. Not only foreign owned boats, but also Portuguese owned boats that re-enter the Portuguese waters are having difficulty coping with the requirements of the Portuguese customs authorities.
What is a T2L document?
The T2L document is a customs document used in the European Union as a proof of the Inter-European community character of the export / import. The exporter, importer and the country the shipment is loaded from and delivered to have to belong to the EU member countries in order for this document to be issued. The T2L document is certified by the customs authorities of the country the products are loaded from and the importer needs to receive it in order to start the import procedure. [Source : cargotransport.org]
It goes too far to go into more details, but the document basically exempts the goods of any supervision by customs authorities and has a validity of 90 days.
Who requires to have the T2L Document on-board?
In principle all pleasure crafts that enter the territorial waters of Portugal, whether the boat is flagged in Portugal or in any other EU flag state.
Theory and practice
The Portuguese authorities are actually asking for a document which is used out of context for which it is primarily meant. The T2L document, as stated on shiphub.co, could easily be replaced by an invoice or purchase contract, as long as it states the details of the buyer, seller, description of the yacht, marks and numbers. In combination with a VAT Declaration, there is no room to fiddle the figures, so to speak.
How to get a T2L Document
The T2L document can be obtained through a customs clearing agent in the country were the vessel is registered. In practice a clearing agent will only issue such a document when the vessel is actual physically present in the country where it is registered. Possibly there are clearing agents who can arrange such a document when the vessel is, for example, already in Portugal.
Life is a lot less complicated for UK registered yachts, as they can apply for a T2L document through the RYA, who will arrange the document is issued by HMRC. Mind you, you have to be a member of RYA and if you are not all the good reasons to become a member.