Sending Your Art Outside the UK – Jargon Busters

Inroduction and Jargon Busters

This ArtMakers introduction to exporting your art covers all the key documents and information you will need if you wish to send you artwork aboard. Below this there is also a Jargon Buster which explains all the key words and terms you will come across.

1. An Export Invoice

 Recommended you have one on the outside and one inside the package.

2. An Import Invoice 

 If you exhibit your artwork internationally, or have a dissatisfied customer, then you need this to be able to get your work back into the country and avoid customs duty, easily.

2. Obtain an EORI number?

If you’re based outside the EU you need an EORI number to trade your art    with the EU.

3. Completed Customs Documents

Customs declarations are required for all commercial items.  There is  a simplified procedure available via HMRC website

            Can I use the simplified declarations procedure? 

            In order to use this system you need

  • have a good customs compliance record, including VAT Returns and duty deferments
  • have a regular pattern of customs declarations against your Economic Operator Registration Identification (EORI) number
  • show how you’ll record all declarations for no less than four years after their submission date

You can use customs agents and fast parcel operators to deal with your documents. – though still have to provide them with most of the information.  See jargon buster below for details.

4. Export Commodity Codes

The tariff commodity code which MUST be displayed on Customs paperwork. Each type of artwork has a commodity code which you need to use in your customs declarations. Failure to use the right code and your package can get stuck in customs.

5. Customs and Import/Export Charges – including VAT.

Art sold to a client living in another country is liable for all relevant duty and tax. 

NOTE: The principle is that the buyer pays all relevant duty and tax – because the amount that is payable is dictated by where they live and what gets charged when importing art to that country. 


All art sold via galley, retail outlet, online or through any third party is liable for VAT. There are some exemptions – see Jargon Buster below.

6. Export licences

These generally apply to goods, including artworks, produced more than fifty years before the point at which they are being exported e.g. Renaissance paintings and Roman antiquity sculptures.

Given all the documents and jargon you may wish to use someone else to undertake most of this work.  From an exporting point of view these are Customs agents or brokers.

Rules of Origin

Following Brexit all UK exports to the EU have to provide ‘Rule of Origin documentation. This for of documentation is not yet fully resolved for artworks for a general guide see

Jargon Busters

What are 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 (e.g. sent to an art fair or “not for sale” to an exhibition).​​ ​

Which Commodity code?

Here is a list of the common commodity codes for artwork.

Most paintings and drawings 9701.10.0000 

Original sculptures and statuary, in any material 97030000

Printed or illustrated postcards; printed cards bearing personal greetings, messages, or announcements, whether or not illustrated, with or without envelopes or trimmings 49090000

Printed, books, brochures and similar printed matter, in single sheets, whether or not folded (excl. periodicals and publications which are essentially devoted to advertising) 49019900

Calendars of any kinds, printed, incl. calendar blocks 49100000

Collages and similar decorative plaques 97019000

Original engravings, prints and lithographs  97020000

For a complete list of codes go to the government website

What are the Customs and Import/Export Charges – including VAT?

 Customs Charges are based on valuation of the goods and agreed rates  for trade and can comprise:

  • Most Favoured Nation (MFN) Rate
  • Sales Tax / Value Added Tax (VAT)
  • Additional duties, taxes and charges as determined by an individual company (or state in the USA)

They vary from country to country, or trading blocks, and will change as the UK negotiates new trade agreements.

What Customs Documents are?

This are formal forms Customs declaration form CN22 (UK) for lower valued items of artwork Customs declaration form CN23  (UK) for higher    value artworks i.e. over £270..


            The ATA Carnet for artwork being shipped for exhibition only.

What are Customs agents and brokers

Individuals or companies who make sure your goods clear through customs.

Distance selling

The term used to describe supplies of goods from one Member State of the EU to a person in another Member State

What is an EORI number?

This is Economic Operator Registration and Identification number you should request from the customs authorities of the EU country responsible for the place where the artwork arrives first in the European Union.

What is an Export Invoice

This details who you are, who you are sending your art to, the type of artwork, its value, weight etc and the commodity code (see below).

Who are Fast parcel operators

These companies transport documents, parcels and freight across the world in a specific time frame. They can deal with customs for you, as part   of their delivery.

You can download a list of customs agents and fast parcel operators from this government website –

What is an Import Invoice 

This is the same as an Export Invoice but obviously with the details of who is sending and who is receiving reversed.  It enables you to return your artwork to your studio within a Customs defined period (normally two years), and to claim relief from payment of import duty.

What is the simplified declarations procedure?

This is a two-part system where in part one you only have to submit some details before you are allowed to export your art. However, you then have to provide the further details within 14 days of the export taking place.

VAT on Artist’s Sales

            The question of exemptions.

  • You may be exempt from charging VAT so long as your sales remain under the registration threshold (currently £85,000) – and you are not registered for VAT.
  • Artists with a studio at home need to take advice about when all sales from their home studio become vat-able – because this activity constitutes a business. However, if there is no suggestion that you are running an art gallery to which the public have access you may be exempt.

Selling to any country in the EU now(from July 2021) includes VAT for any goods worth over €22/£19.  This is organised via an EU One Stop Shop.

However, Buyers normally has to pay all local Taxes – this includes VAT. So in most cases you as an artists need not worry about this.


None of the information on this page is definitive, comprehensive, or complete. 
None of the advice on this page should be treated as professional or legal advice. 
Information and advice may also be out of date – customs’ rules and regulations are constantly changing with new trade deals etc. 

Therefore, please check with Government website and or a professional advisor if in doubt.


Sending Your Art Outside the UK - Info & Jargon Busters




Includes :
ArtMakers Newsletter
Peer-to-Peer chatroom
Competition and events listings
Basic Information and Jargon explainers
Detailed Information pdf’s – download up to 3 per year
Articles – read 3 a month
Reduced cost half day Marketing Health Check with Dirty Martini (Northern Devon only)
Sign up to subscribe


£7.00 / £73.50

per month

Includes :
30 Day auto reminder of upcoming deadlines
Membership of The Maker Series
Podcasts and Masterclasses
Networking Events
Detailed information pdf’s – download all
Articles – read all
2x Short Training Courses* per year included
Sign up to subscribe

Standard Plus

£9.00 / £97.20

per month / year

Includes :
45 Day auto reminder of upcoming deadlines
Membership of a-n – inc. insurance benefits
Includes up to 4 Short Training Courses per year §
Further £50 reduction on Half day Marketing Health Check with Dirty Martini**
Sign up to subscribe

Do you find this advice helpful?