Export from the UK

(A) Export licences

For decades the British government has maintained a policy of ensuring that cultural goods of outstanding national importance are, where possible, retained in Britain. To implement this policy the government has in place a system of export licensing which attempts to strike a balance between the various interests concerned: the protection of national heritage, the rights of owners and of exporters and the reputation of the UK as an international market. The European Union also maintains a similar system, the need for which arose out of the removal of trade border controls between member states of the Union.

In instances where goods are leaving the UK both the UK and European licensing systems are based upon a series of thresholds; items valued below the thresholds do not require a specific licence, those above do. [Other European countries may operate different national systems for deciding whether export licences need to be applied for (such as finite lists of important cultural property instead of thresholds), but in all cases it is still necessary for the European thresholds to be adhered to.]

Under European Community law for most items the EU threshold in the UK is £39,219. In countries which operate the euro this is 50,000 euros.

Under the relevant UK law there is an Open General Export Licence (O.G.E.L.) covering the majority of categories of antiques and other collectors’ items over 50 years old, if the value per article, or matching set of articles is less than £65,000. The thresholds for some categories vary between nil and £180,000. Items with values above the O.G.E.L. threshold will always require an export licence if leaving the UK.

Further details of the export licensing system are available on the Arts Council website. Further details are also available on the Export licensing section of this site.

Exporting to other European Union member states

O.G.E.L. thresholds are the only thresholds which need be considered if the destination of the goods is another European Union member state. The licence which has to be applied for is known as a "UK licence" since it is governed by UK (not European) legislation.

Exporting to destinations outside the European Union

In the case of goods destined for outside the EU it is the lower of the EU and O.G.E.L. thresholds which will apply and at present most EU thresholds are lower than O.G.E.L. thresholds. Accordingly a EU licence has to be applied for.

How do I find out whether I need a licence, and if so how to apply for one?

A good dealer should be able to help you with this but should you wish to make the application yourself application forms for export licences and the full list of thresholds may be obtained from:

Export Licensing Unit
Arts Council England
21 Bloomsbury Street
London WC1B 3HF

Telephone: +44 (0) 20-7268 9606

Email: elu@artscouncil.org.uk



VAT for goods destined for other European Union member states

The VAT rules with regard to the movement of goods between EU states are quite complex and depend upon both the VAT status of the parties to the transaction as well as the chosen form of VAT used for the sale (ie either "margin" scheme or standard).

If you are a private citizen resident outside the UK in another state of the European Union then VAT included in the amount you pay for art or antiques purchased in the UK will be the only VAT you pay. You will not be able to reclaim this VAT (whether it be paid under the margin scheme or the standard scheme). However, you will not be liable to any further VAT in your home country.

If however you are a VAT registered business from a non UK member of the European Union then the British dealer selling to you has two options. He can sell to you under the margin scheme, in which case the price you pay will include a non-recoverable, unstated amount of VAT, which will leave the items eligible to be sold by you under the margin scheme (if any) in your home state. Alternatively, if the British dealer is satisfied that you are a genuine VAT-registered body and that you will supply him or her with proof of transfer of the goods to the destination state then the transaction can be "zero-rated". In the latter case you will need to supply the British dealer with your full VAT number, including the two letter country code prefix. You will also need to account for the transaction on your VAT return in your home state since the British dealer will be declaring the transaction on his VAT EU Sales List.

VAT and goods destined for locations outside the EU

Some BADA dealers operate what is known as the VAT retail export scheme.

If and only if the dealer operates this scheme then they may be able to grant a small discount off their normal UK margin scheme price if a buyer, normally resident in a country outside the European Union, is prepared to present themselves and the necessary VAT Form 407 at the Customs desk of their port or airport of departure from the UK. Once Form 407 is stamped by Customs it must then be returned to the dealer as evidence of the export of the goods. It should be noted that usually Customs will not stamp up the form for goods which cannot be inspected because they have previously been checked in to hold luggage.

(C) Entry taxes at destination

Many countries outside the European Union levy duties and taxes on antiques over 100 years old and works of art at a lower level or rate than is the case for ordinary goods. In some cases such items can be imported free of all or most duty. Evidence of eligibility for these preferential rates is usually required and accordingly The British Antique Dealers’ Association has for many years provided an antiques certification service.

What are the rates of duty for my country of destination?

Up to date information about duties and taxes payable at destination may be obtained either from your national government or if you are based in the United Kingdom please contact:

Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Tariff Section
1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7215 5000
(ask for Tariff Section, then the country concerned)

(D) BADA Antiques Certification Service

For which countries does the BADA usually issue full certificates?

Antiques exported to some countries may gain duty-free or reduced-duty entry if accompanied by a special pre-printed BADA certificate of antiquity approved by the relevant authorities in the country concerned. For some additional countries the procedure involves the BADA issuing a letter certifying as antique the items listed on a schedule prepared by the exporter. Alternatively for other countries these letters can be issued so as to assist with the customs procedures at the port of entry. Naturally in all cases our assessors will need to have actual sight of the goods concerned.

Countries for which a pre-printed BADA certificate is required:

  • Australia
    Please note that whilst a BADA certificate will provide eligibility for a lower rate of import duty it will not avoid liability for the Goods & Service Tax (G.S.T.) (currently 10%) payable on most goods entering Australia.

    Items left by will to someone resident in Australia will be allowed in duty- and G.S.T.-free, provided the bequest is specifically detailed in the will and both a copy of the will and death certificate are made available to the authorities.
  • Bahama Islands
    Photographs are also required.
  • Brazil
    See comments for Venezuela.
  • Canada
    (Two copies of the certificate required)

    Certificates can be issued for goods over 100 years and over 50 years. All goods entering Canada are subject to a ‘goods and services tax’ of 7% if they are subsequently sold on.
  • Cyprus
  • Iceland
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Lebanon
  • New Zealand
    Please note that whilst a BADA certificate will provide eligibility for a lower rate of import duty it will not avoid liability for the Goods & Service Tax (G.S.T.) (currently 12.5%) payable on most goods entering New Zealand.

    Items left by will to someone resident in New Zealand will be allowed in duty- and G.S.T.-free, provided the bequest is specifically detailed in the will and both a copy of the will and death certificate are made available to the authorities.
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
    14% VAT charged on antiques entering South Africa which is reclaimable if the person importing the item is VAT registered.

Countries for which a special letter is either required or helpful:

  • Bahrain
  • Barbados
    To assist with entry only
  • Kuwait
  • Malta
    To assist with entry only
  • Morocco
    Six copies (with original stamps) of invoice and BADA cover letter
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
    To assist with entry only
  • Thailand
  • U.S.A.
    To assist with entry only
  • Venezuela
    Certificate should be taken to a public notary who verifies with the BADA that the Association has issued the certificate and also verifies the signature of the Secretary.

Please note that this service of endorsement of invoices by the BADA can be provided for any country requiring proof of antiquity.

Customs regulations and tariffs may change, and are correct to the best of our knowledge and belief at the time of publication.

How do I apply for a BADA Antique (Customs) Certificate?

For more information and forms please contact Riley Grant at:
Address: BADA, First Floor, 21 John Street, London WC1N 2BF
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7589 4128


For more information about the permits need to export antiques containing or made from specimens of endangered species, such as ivory, rosewood or coral, please see the Buying for export section of this site.

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