It had been thought that there wasn't a number-of-hours qualification for cruise ship tourist tax demands.

03-07-2009Gabriel Alomar

Fewer than twenty per cent of cruise ships coming to Balearic ports this year will be subject to the tourist tax. This is because the time they are in port is under twelve hours.

The Balearic Ports Authority (APB) says that of the 749 ships coming to the five state ports in the Balearics in 2016, only 134 are scheduled to stay for more than twelve hours. In Palma, where there are due to be 517 ships, only 47 will be affected. In Ibiza the ratio is far greater - 139 ships and 81 of them subject to the tax. In Mahon it's very much a case of the opposite: 78 ships and a mere six will be in port for more than twelve hours. This analysis by APB refers to the whole year and not just the six months of actual implementation of the tax in 2016.

Passengers are meant to be charged one euro. Originally this was two euros, but the Council of Ibiza and the El Pi party managed to persuade the government to cut the charge to one euro (plus 10% IVA, VAT). The association of maritime businesses in the Balearics says that shipping companies have opted to pay the tax via a system of estimation direct to the government. They have taken this option as it is the simplest approach, especially as there are so many under-16s among passengers who are not liable to have to pay in any event.

This association is pointing to what it considers to be an unfairness in respect of the charge to the nautical sector as a whole. This relates to yachts and other recreational craft which are not covered by the tax. It is highlighting the fact that there is not (or should not be) any difference between cruise passengers and those on yachts who can be classified as tourists. In July and August the number of these "tourists" is at its highest. For the association it is a discrepancy akin to that for holiday rentals. There is no legal mechanism, despite what the government might say, for charging the tax on non-regulated accommodation.

The case of recreational boats was certainly one that came up when the first draft of the tax legislation was issued: it was made by this newspaper, among others. It does seem discriminatory. As to the twelve-hour rule for cruise ships, this was not the government's initial intention, but it is in line with how the Catalonian tourist tax is applied to cruise passengers in Barcelona.

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