Artists Can Avoid Customs Holds and Duties: Apply These Codes When Shipping Your Art Internationally

Recently, I shipped several of my sold paintings internationally, and wondered why my packages were always held by customs even on expedited shipments.

Perhaps you’ve had this experience–buyers, and you the artist, scrambling to get the details on how to get your art released from customs. Phone calls trying to discover why the shipment was held up. Wondering what additional information they require. What can I do next time to avoid all this? Is there a protocol for sending artwork to buyers outside of the country you are based?

It can be quite a complicated puzzle with a simple goal of delivery to your buyer. Then I learned that I can avoid customs hold-ups by apply a trade tariff code to the outside of my shipping box.

The trade tariff codes starting with number ’97’ alerts customs worldwide to the fact that the item is an original work of art and is therefore exempt from import duties.

For instance, if you are based in the UK and are sending overseas please mark your package clearly with Export code: 97011000

If you are based outside of the UK and are sending your artwork to a customer within the UK mark your parcel: Commodity Code: 9701100000.

Any other variables – say you are sending from USA to Finland or between any other countries then mark you parcel: Export code: 970110

It is really important to use these codes,  otherwise items can get stuck in customs!

10 thoughts on “Artists Can Avoid Customs Holds and Duties: Apply These Codes When Shipping Your Art Internationally

  1. Do these codes only apply for shipping work that will stay in the country you are sending it to? or do they work when you are sending work to exhibit in a foreign country as well? Do these numbers work in Asia as well or only Europe?


  2. Marie,

    WOW! Thank you so much. This is the most helpful piece of information I have received in my email from anyone in weeks.

    Thank you for always sending superb information. I so appreciate your support of other artists. And your art work really speaks to me.

    So now I am being a gushing fan, yes.

    Many thanks and wishes for a Happy New Year. Amantha



  3. Be sure to also create a commercial invoice for each shipment – you can find examples online or get them from your shipper but I always include the medium, the fact that the work is one of a kind, the name of the artist and the country of origin of the work. As an example: Contains one original 80cm x 80cm oil painting by Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thanh Binh. You also need to include a value. Original artwork being shipped into the US is generally exempt from duties but there have been times when my clients in New York and California have been presented with duties later after the fact. When shipping art valued at over 2,500 US dollars, it is best to include the receivers EIN / SSN or locally required TAX ID number – this speeds things through the customs process as well.


  4. Pingback: ARTISTS LINKS FOR SHIPPING | Otto Rapp's Blog

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