UK – the new Switzerland for the Art Market?

On January 1, 2021 the UK officially left the European Union. Which consequences does the new situation have for the players of the art market?

Of course, one thing is for sure: All players of the art market have to get used to the new regulations. The first weeks passed by like a bumpy start. Many shipments were cancelled, others are still not completed. The major problems are related to the new import and export regulations. Since January 2021 the UK and the EU are divided by customs border. The UK is now classified as “Third Country” like Switzerland. Every customs good needs to be declared when getting in and out of the UK. What do you have to do now to continue trading with the UK?

  • If you are an art dealer, an auction house or an artist doing business with the UK you have to apply for the so-called Economic Operators Registration and Identification number (EORI). Only with the EORI-number you can handle the movement of goods with the customs administration.
  • All goods shipped for permanent export with a value of more than 1.000,- € have to be registered at the automated tariff and local trading and settlement system of the customs authorities (ATLAS-system).
  • All goods shipped for permanent export with a value of more than 6.000,- € have to be registered by the registered exporters system (REX) at the customs so that the importer in the UK can declare exemption.
  • Check to get the updated information about new temporarily or permanent regulations.
  • All art works still have to be checked if they can get an Open General Export Licence (Objects of Cultural Interest) – all goods produced in the UK more than 50 years before the date of exportation such as photographic positive or negative with a value of more than £ 10.000,-, a painting with a value of more than £ 180.000,- or a portrait of a representation of the likeness of any British historical personage with a value of more than £ 10.000,- have to be checked if they might be of national interest. This is important for you if you buy in the UK and if you want to import art from the UK into your country. Check the full list for all art works at
  • For all purchases in the UK intended for an import in your country, import tax applies -> An example for the purchase of a painting in a London gallery by a German collector with a value of £ 10.000,-: He has to pay 7 % import tax instead of 20 % value added tax (VAT in the UK on art works in 2021) -> £ 700,- instead of £ 2.000,- which is equivalent to a discount of £ 1.300,-. If the collector buys the same work in Germany 19 % VAT are applicable -> This still makes a discount of £ 700,-.

    -> The UK is now a Third Country like Switzerland in terms of a reduced tax but the registration procedure needs to be well prepared for a smooth handling.

What is different apart from these regulations?

  • If you travel to the UK you can stay there only for up to 6 months without applying for a visa. For any further stays (e.g. to study or to work) you need a visa if you were not resident in the UK by 31 December 2020.
  • During the pandemic you have to register online to travel to the UK with the confirmation that you will quarantine for 10 days. Furthermore, before you start boarding you have to submit a negative Corona test which must not be older than three days and which must be translated into English, French or Spanish (for visitors aged 11 years and older). During your 10 days quarantine you have to submit two further Corona tests on the second and on the eighth day after your arrival in the UK.
  • If you travel from a high-risk country such as Portugal you have to stay in a special quarantine hotel for 14 days at your expense (costs vary around £ 1.750,-). Violation of these rules can be sanctioned with up to 10 years imprisonment.

To sum up, the new regulations trading with the UK are now clear but need a simplification especially with regards to a digital solution. You will need an experienced art shipper.

At the same time purchases can be made at lower tax rates so it can be advantageous for buyers if they have time to wait until the works are shipped.

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