Shipping Art Internationally

Even if it’s true that was never easier to show your art overseas or to do business all over the world, shipping art internationally still being complicated.

Shipping is both science and art and to avoid some struggle rather be cautious. I won’t speak about packaging procedures (maybe in another post), I will focus only in shipping. Let’s start.

What you need to know to ship (export) artwork internationally for exhibition and/or sale ​:

1- Export Invoices ( and Import in case of exhibition)

2- Trade Tariff Commodity Codes

3- The EORI Number (an identification number which customs use to identify the sender and their parcels across all EU countries.)

4- Customs Charges, Taxes and Import Duty

5- Customs Charges and VAT

5.1Tax on importing art for exhibition and sale

6- Customs Declaration Forms

6.1 ATA Carnet and work for exhibition only

7- Export Licences for Cultural Goods


If exporting or importing artwork outside the EU, you need:
a) Commercial invoice if the work is to be sold.

b) Proforma invoice if the work is for exhibition ( a non commercial shipment) . An export invoice is REQUIRED for all artwork sent to a country outside a customs union (such as the European Union)
Export invoice Example:

You need to amend it to indicate whether it is commercial or a proforma invoice.

PS – If you intend to re-import the art (ex: sent for exhibition) then you need to produce an export proforma invoice and import proforma invoice – for the documentation on the return journey .

​I recommend two EXPORT invoices – one in the plastic envelope on the outside and one on the inside of the package – in case the external envelope gets detached after the package has arrived at its destination country and made it out of customs.

Plus – for a return journey – an Import Invoice for return to your studio within a Customs defined period – generally under two years (ex: coming back from an exhibition; a dissatisfied customer etc) to claim relief from payment of import duty.


For most paintings and drawings, ​the tariff commodity code which MUST be displayed on Customs paperwork is 9701.10.0000

Commodity Tariff Codes are used to declare to the relevant Customs of the importing country what a package comprises provide a common definition and classification of goods which are imported and exported by countries around the world provide a basis for assessing any customs duty or other taxes (ex VAT) which need to be paid.

They are actually essential to customs declarations – you MUST include a code on the declaration form and invoices ESSENTIAL to speedy movement of all packages through Customs. Fail to use the right code and your package can get stuck in Customs! 200+ member countries use this system – but not all countries do.

NOTE: Prints and Sculpture have different commodity codes – see below ​

3 – EORI – Economic Operator Registration and Identification

If you live in the EU, you need an EORI number to trade goods with countries outside the EU.

“EORI” stands for Economic Operator Registration and Identification. An EORI number is a unique identification number which identifies who you are to Customs. An EORI number is used for: all customs related activities within the EU when importing from or exporting to a country outside the EU.

How to get an EORI number? Apply to the relevant taxation and customs authority. For example, in the UK, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) assigns an EORI number to importers and exporters. If you live outside the EU you should request an EORI number from the customs authorities of the EU country responsible for the place where the artwork arrives first.

More info about EORI number :

Where to get EORI number :


Charges are based on the VALUE of the art. Valuing art is usually based on sale prices for similar works. The country that imports the art gets to set the rules as to which duty and taxes apply and what rates they will use.

Art sold to a client living in another country is liable for all relevant duty and tax ​(unless none is payable ex: artist in EU country sells to collector in a different EU Country).

​The principle is that the buyer pays all relevant duty and tax – because the amount that is payable is dictated by where he or she lives and what gets charged when importing art to that country.

Returned Goods

Notices about how this works in your country will vary.

In the UK Notice 236 Returned Goods Relief details how this works ( this gets updated on a periodic basis so be sure to click the link to make sure you are working with the latest version.)

Within the EU, unless an exemption applies, the importer of art, antiques and collectibles is liable to pay import VAT at the rate determined by individual countries.


Customs Charges are based on valuation of the goods and agreed rates for trade and can comprise: Most Favoured Nation (MFN) RateSales Tax / Value Added Tax (VAT)Additional duties, taxes and charges as determined by an individual company (or state in the USA)

Countries tend to have trade agreements which mean at least some goods imported from some countries are charged a lower tariff. These agreements tend to be reciprocal rather than one way.

You can look up tariffs for the fine art commodity codes using the World Trade Organisation’s Tariff Download Facility– this indicates those with a significant duty on imported art.

IMPORTING art to the European Union (EU)

In some EU countries, the standard rate of import VAT applies. Within the EU, the standard rate of VAT varies between 15% and 25%. In some EU countries, a reduced rate of import VAT applies.

IMPORTING art to the USA

If you lower the valuation of art intended for sale on the entry documents – in order to avoid tax – you are committing a felony.

The USA has 0% MFN duty; sales tax payable depends on the state (also operates on sales between states)there can be a merchandise processing fee. Shipments of art into the USA are Duty Free on artworks up to $800 There are special rules for Trade Shows In order to ship merchandise into the US, customs requires the owner of record to have a US Federal Tax ID number (also known as an Employer ID) with a US mailing address.


VAT on Art Imported to the EU area ​- for sale at art fairs, art competitions, juried and gallery exhibitions. ​​

Non-established taxable persons (ex:international artists who do not live in the EU) who are IMPORTING art for sale at art exhibitions (for art competitions or otherwise) in the EU need to know about VAT and how it works.

Artists without a UK residence must register for UK VAT and supply a UK VAT number before they can sell works of art in an art exhibition or art gallery in the UK.

Artists entering artwork FOR SALE in art competitions or juried exhibitions in the UK MUST take full responsibility for all costs, including any import customs charges and duties payable – and all transport costs (ex: competitions do not pay for transport or customs charges)​.

This means that artists importing artwork FOR SALE into the UK for an art competition or juried exhibition or a gallery exhibition MUST PAY 5% VAT to Customs & Excise at the border.

Relief from customs charges can be available if it is purely exported for exhibition and then re-imported unchanged by the artist – but there is a time limit on how long the art can be out of the country.

If you are importing artworks for an exhibition they are subject to duty and VAT relief as long as they are exported within 2 years.


Customs declarations are required for all commercial items. This means

any goods exported/imported in the course of a business transaction, whether or not they are sold for money or exchanged (i.e. they might just be sent for exhibition).​​ ​

Customs authorities around the world require international mail and parcels of value arriving in their country to have the required customs declarations. So make sure you’ve completed the necessary forms.

There are two forms:

Customs declaration form CN22 (UK) for lower valued items of artwork

This is the form CN22 which is an international Customs Declaration Form for Great Britain for items valued at less than £270. People sending presents overseas will be familiar with completing it in terms of saying what a package contains and its weight and value. You must also declare whether the item is: a gift​, a document, a commercial sample​,”other” .For all commercial items you MUST also include the trade commodity tariff code and the country of origin of the goods (artwork).

Customs declaration form CN23 (UK) for higher value artworks

CN23 is for artwork valued at over £270. It requires a lot more information. What it looks like can very from country to country – but it should still include all the required information.

6.1 The ATA Carnet

The ATA Carnet is used for artwork being shipped for exhibition only. That means “exhibition ONLY”, not for sale

However they can be quite difficult to obtain and they are not essential if you do the paperwork for Customs properly.


You may need a licence to export certain ‘cultural goods’ over 50 years old. Whether you need a licence depends on the age and value of the goods – see the tabulation below for the values for different commodities used by the EU.

Cultural goods include:

a) works of art

b) furniture

c) antiques

d) means of transport

e) manuscripts

f) archaeological items

Have in mind that certain cultural goods that reach or exceed specific age and monetary value thresholds require an individual licence for export out of the UK – whether on a permanent or temporary basis.

The provision of provenance by exporters for cultural objects that are intended for export, would appear to be a recurrent, contentious, and on occasions fractious issue for quite some time.

More info about :

I hope that this post is helpful for someone, any doubts just comment or email us.

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