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Import VAT

Import duty in the form of VAT (Value Added Tax) at 5% is payable on antiques, works of art and collectors’ pieces entering the United Kingdom from outside the European Union (EU), whether imported privately or by VAT-registered businesses.

It is possible to delay or avoid payment of import VAT if Temporary Admission (TA) relief is granted at the time of entry. TI relief requires the provision to HM Customs & Excise of security equal in value to the 5% that would be payable if the items were being imported without TI. Security can take the form of a written guarantee in standard format from the importer’s bankers or a cash payment. Further details are given in Customs Notice 200 and VAT Notice 702. These notices can be found on www.hmrc.gov.uk — look for the section listing publications and notices.

Antiques imported under either mechanism must have been manufactured or produced as a whole and in the form as imported more than 100 years before the date of importation. Works of art and collectors’ pieces are defined in VAT Notice 702, Appendix C.

No import licence is required, but importers must support claims for low rate VAT (5%) admission by providing satisfactory documentary evidence. If the evidence provided is not acceptable to Customs, the importer may be required to obtain a certificate of age from a member of the BADA. Goods which are neither antiques nor works of art nor collectors’ items will be subject to the standard rate of import VAT (currently 17.5%).

Articles introduced into the UK from other EU states are not subject to import VAT. However, if the transaction is between two VAT registered businesses it may be possible for the business based in the state of departure to "zero rate" the transaction using the "supply" and "acquisition" rules explained in VAT Notice 725.

Endangered species

The import of specimens of endangered species into the United Kingdom from countries outside the European Union is restricted.  

Typical examples of species which appear in antiques include elephant ivory, rosewood and coral.  For more information please see the Buying for Export section of this site.