What you need to know about fine art import fees

Fine art imports
What you need to know about fine art import fees

Are you planning to buy fine art from a foreign country? 

Purchasing any piece of fine art is a significant investment, so regardless of your budget, preparing yourself for any unexpected costs or fine art import fees you may face when shipping art internationally is a good idea. 

However, the specifics of customs clearance for art shipping and knowing how to ship art internationally can be complex. To make it all a little simpler, let’s unpack the regulations for fine art shipping to several different countries, including the USA, Canada, EU, and the UK.

Customs clearance for fine art imports

If you buy art from outside your home country, shipping your art could incur substantial fees that add to the overall expense of your purchase. Import fees vary depending on the country that your art is shipping from.

Let’s start by looking at the costs of shipping art internationally to the USA.

Importing art to the USA: HS Code 97

In the USA, fine art falls under Chapter 97 of the Harmonized tariff schedule. The Harmonized tariff schedule establishes tariff rates for merchandise imported into the USA. Chapter 97 says that you can import most original fine art into the USA without paying customs duties. 

This includes works of art like:

  • Paintings
  • Drawings
  • Pastels
  • Engravings
  • Lithographs
  • Prints
  • Antiques (over 100 years old only)

This also usually covers a frame accompanying a piece of art, provided it’s standard for its type. However, a frame with a particularly high value or one considered outside the norm may incur a fee. 

This applies to original fine art only — widely available reproductions are generally ineligible for duty-free import. 

Import regulations for art in other countries

Now that we know you can import most fine art in the United States duty-free, let’s delve into the customs duties for a few other countries.

Importing art to Canada

As with shipping art internationally to the USA, certain types of fine art are duty-free in Canada. Specifically, original drawings, paintings, and pastels on canvas carry no fees. 

However, paintings on non-canvas or non-paper surfaces are subject to a fee of 5.5% of the purchase price. 

Sculptures, statues, and prints are duty-free too. However, these must be produced by an artist’s hands without mechanical or photomechanical processes. 

What about collages and plaques? Original pieces that fall into either category are also duty-free. 

Be aware, though, that original art classed as “other” (perhaps when made with unusual materials) will incur a fee of 7% of the purchase price. 

If you plan to ship art to Canada from the US or Mexico, that’s duty-free and covered by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). This agreement came into effect in July 2020, replacing the older North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Importing art to the EU

Fine art shipping internationally to the EU works a little differently. In the EU, you don’t pay import fees for art shipping from one EU country to another. That’s ideal if you live within the EU and only purchase fine art from EU-based artists. 

However, importing art from non-EU countries will likely incur fees. How steep these fees will be depends on the country you’re importing art to:

  • France - 5.5% 
  • Belgium - 6%
  • Spain - 10%
  • Germany - 7%
  • Switzerland - 7.7%
  • Italy - 10%
  • Luxembourg - 8%

Importing art to the UK

For fine art shipping to the UK, you need to pay a customs fee of 5% of the purchase price for all goods imported from outside the UK. This only applies to pieces with a value exceeding £135, including drawings, collages, paintings, engravings, photographs, sculptures, and ceramics. 

You pay customs duties on the price paid for your artwork and the price of postage, packaging, and insurance. 

Don't be surprised by international art customs fees

Import costs are a key consideration for collectors of fine art, whether you ship pieces across borders regularly or only occasionally. However, navigating the finer points of customs clearance for art shipping can be time-consuming and complex, especially if you’re new to the process. 

Fortunately, working with an international art shipping company can make the process easier and help keep you aware of art import fees.

The right fine art shipping company can help you navigate customs fees and regulations, paperwork, and other key factors so you can relax and enjoy building your collection without the stress.
For help with your international art shipping, get in touch DTS!

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