One-on-One with Martyn Fiddler Aviation
With over 40 years’ experience helping clients own and import their business aircraft, Martyn Fiddler Aviation is a leader in the areas of customs, VAT, and aircraft ownership. To learn more about the company, its services, and the state of business aviation, we sat down with company director Mark Byrne.
EBAA: Your tagline is ‘Solutions to meet tax and regulatory obligations efficiently’. Can you tell us what this means in terms of the services you offer to business aviation?
Byrne: For our business aviation clients, Martyn Fiddler serves as a tax advisor, a customs agent, and a trust company or corporate service provider.
As to the first activity, if you own and operate an aircraft within the EU, you’ll likely run up against some tax obligations – which is where we come in. In short, if you have any VAT obligations, we’ll tell you what they are and how you can best meet them.
Outside of taxes, most aircraft will also need to comply with various custom processes. Typically, this means importing an aircraft into the EU and/or UK (and Isle of Man) or exporting an aircraft from these same locations.
Last but not least is our aircraft ownership services. Because you’d be very unwise to own an aircraft in your own name, most individuals opt to for some type of aircraft ownership structure. Here, we can help form and manage companies in a range of jurisdictions.
Going back to your customs services, has this been impacted by Brexit?
This part of our business has certainly become much more complex since the UK left the EU! It used to be that you only needed one customs process for the entire EU. Now, if you want to fly to the EU and the UK, you must complete two customs processes. From a client’s perspective, this means more hassle and more expense. For the UK charter market, it means the ability to fly anywhere, any time, and with anyone has been severely curtailed.
That being said, the one upside of all this is that we can now organise aircraft closings at one of our UK warehouses. Prior to Brexit, many aircraft closings happened in Guernsey. Because the island is outside both the UK and EU, doing a closing there limited the risk of having the transaction taxed. The problem with doing these closings in Guernsey is that it has very limited technical capabilities, meaning if an aircraft needs any sort of maintenance, the process could be significantly delayed.
Since Brexit, we can now do closings at our own warehouses in the UK. Just in terms of pure serviceability, it’s an improvement – all while maintaining the tax neutrality of the transaction.
How has your company been affected by the pandemic?
Apart from the fact that more of our work is now done from home, we’ve been extremely fortunate. In fact, I’m pleased to say that we’re busier than ever! This is really the result of the case for business aviation being particularly strong, especially with commercial flights having been cancelled or reduced and with bizav offering a unique safety benefit.
For example, here on the Isle of Man, we used to have seven flights to London a day. Now we have just one. For that reason alone, if you have the ability to buy or operate a business jet, doing so makes it so much easier to get where you need to be – and Martyn Fiddler Aviation makes owning that aircraft easier.
As we’re approaching the end of the year, what would you say are the three key challenges facing the industry in 2022?
Simple: sustainability, sustainability, sustainability.
Let’s face it, business aviation is an easy and obvious target. On top of the long-standing misperception that we’re a toy for fat cats, the industry is also being perceived as unsustainable. It doesn’t matter whether this is true or not, it’s the perception that matters – and this is how we are being perceived.
What this means for business aviation is that sustainability is an issue that is not going to go away. That’s why the theme of our annual Isle of Man Aviation Conference, which will be held on 22 June 2022, is sustainability. Having organised this conference for almost a decade now, we’ve never had such high levels of interest at such an early stage – a clear sign of people being both ready for face-to-face networking and to learn how they can address this important issue head on.
What is Martyn Fiddler Aviation doing specifically about sustainability?
We are committed to addressing the issue of our own sustainability in a credible and meaningful way. For example, we just finished a project that measured our carbon footprint. We’re now using this information to try to figure out a what we can do to decrease, or at least offset, this footprint. We then plan to package this solution, whether it be buying carbon credits or planting trees, and making it available to our customers.
At the end of the day, we’re not interested in greenwashing. We want to do the right thing for no other reason than that it’s the right thing to do – and we want to help our clients do the right thing too.