A client examining an etching by Whistler

Export licences

Following the end of the Transition Period in the relationship between the UK and the EU the arrangements for export licences have been simplified in respect of cultural property leaving mainland Great Britain. 

The restrictions to consider are solely the UK's export thresholds, not those of the EU. However, in respect of cultural property located in Northern Ireland, both the UK and European Union licensing systems' thresholds will need to be considered if the goods are destined for a non-EU country.

Under UK law there is an Open General Export Licence (O.G.E.L.) covering the majority of categories of antiques, works of art and collectors’ items over 50 years old, if the value per article, or matching set of articles is less than £65,000.

In addition, in Northern Ireland, under European Community rules, for most items the EU threshold is £44,236. (In countries which operate the euro this is 50,000 euros.)

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.

Export licence applications

Further details of the export licensing system are available on the Arts Council website.  A good dealer should be able to help you with this but should you wish to make the application yourself application forms and a full list of thresholds are available from:

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

Telephone: +44 (0) 20-7268 9606

Email: [email protected]

VAT and exports from Great Britain & Northern Ireland

The Government has withdrawn the Retail Export Scheme for personal shoppers acquiring items in Great Britain and in respect of which a discount was previously given by the selling antique dealer if they operated the scheme.  However, the scheme still applies for retailers in Northern Ireland when selling to non-EU purchasers or to purchasers in the UK (the latter under certain conditions).

The dealer in Northern Ireland may be able to grant a small discount off their normal UK margin scheme price if a buyer, resident in GB or in a country outside the EU presents a VAT Form 407 at the Customs desk of their port or airport of departure from NI. For more information please see the government web page concerning VAT and Northern Ireland.

Once Form 407 is stamped by customs it must then be returned to the dealer as evidence of the export of the goods. Customs staff are unlikely to stamp the form for goods which cannot be inspected in person because they have previously been checked in to hold luggage.

VAT for exports to the EU and the rest of the world

Following the end of the Transition Period transfers of goods from the UK to EU member states count as exports, provided adequate evidence of export is retained, and consequently no VAT is payable on these sales. Exports of antiques from Great Britain to the EU are thus treated in the same way as exports from the UK to non-EU countries.

Entry taxes at destination

Antiques entering the EU from Great Britain will be subject to the rate of import VAT prevailing in the relevant member state.  These rates can vary considerably, but some countries charge a special low rate for works of art, collectors' items or antiques.  The rate for imported antiques is not always the same as the rate applicable for imported works of art. 

As at January 2021 the EU's website was showing the following rates of import VAT that applied to works of art (w), collectors' items (c) and antiques (a):











Czech Rep







10%  24%




7% w c, 19% a






















6% w, 23% a c











*the rates in Germany were reduced temporarily to 5% and 16% during 2020 as part of government Covid-19 measures, but it is understood this ended for most VAT supplies on 31.12.2020


Rates of duty for non-EU countries

Many non-EU countries levy duties and taxes on antiques over 100 years old and on works of art at a lower level or rate than is the case for ordinary goods.

To assist with evidence of eligibility for these lower rates of duty BADA provides a comprehensive antiques certification service. (see below)  Up to date information about duties and taxes payable at destination may be obtained either from your national government or for UK residents 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)

BADA certification service

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 BADA issuing a letter certifying the items listed on a schedule prepared by the exporter as antique.

For other countries these letters can be issued to assist with customs procedures at the port of entry. Naturally in all cases our assessors will need to have actual sight of the goods concerned.

Countries requiring a pre-printed BADA certificate

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 a copy of the will and death certificate are supplied 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.


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.

South Africa
- 14% VAT is charged on antiques entering South Africa, this can be reclaimed if the person importing the item is VAT registered.

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

- To assist with entry only
- To assist with entry only
Morocco - Six copies (with original stamps) of invoice and BADA cover letter
Saudi Arabia
- To assist with entry only
. - To assist with entry only
Venezuela - Certificate should be taken to a public notary who verifies with BADA that the Association has issued the certificate and also verifies the signature of the Secretary.

This service of endorsement of invoices by BADA can be provided for any country requiring proof of antiquity.

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

Applying for a BADA Antique (Customs) Certificate

For more information and forms please email [email protected]
Address: BADA, First Floor, 21 John Street, London WC1N 2BF
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7589 4128

Endangered species export permits

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

For information concerning the current legal position for exporting antiques containing ivory see our web page about Antique ivory.

For BADA recommended service providers specialising in packing and shipping antiques and fine art click here