Artists Use *97* Shipping Codes on Art to Avoid VAT and Customs Holds

I first published this article in May of 2015, and the information has been in demand by many artists ever since. With the upcoming holiday season and shipping of artworks sold online, these shipping codes are as relevant and useful as ever.

I had painting held up in customs when I shipped to a buyer in Spain. A very success art dealer first provided me with these shipping codes when she sold two my paintings to an art consultant in Germany. That’s when I began adding these “97” codes to my packaging and invoices and have had no issues with my art shipments!

Yes, I’ve used the codes to ship art from the USA to European countries. Ask any FedEx shipping staff about the codes if you’d like to confirm their usefulness.

So I wanted to share these codes with artists.

Here is my original article–

Artists, below are a series of “97” codes for you to use when shipping your art internationally.

If you’ve ever had an artwork held up in customs, it becomes a series of problems for both the buyer and you the artist.

You scramble to get the details on how to get your art released from customs. Phone calls out and coming in slowly reveal the problem. The buyer on their end engaged in the same activities, as you both try to uncover the reason the shipment has been held up.

If you have shipped via FedEx, they may offer you a special certificate to verify origin of the artwork, for an additional fee. But that document has to be hand signed, and that requires a courier to come to your door to get your signature–$$$$$$$.

What can you do next time to avoid all this? Is there a protocol for sending artwork to buyers outside of the country where you are based?

Yes! Simply add the correct *97* code–listed below–to your package label before shipping.

Recently, an American artist, quite pleased with himself for selling one of his paintings to a UK buyer–as any artist would be– wanted to know where and how to pay the VAT (Value Added Tax) for the buyer. 

When I informed him of the “97” codes, he scoffed. Apparently, he’d gotten the idea to pay the VAT and that was that. Then a UK artist got into the conversation, indignantly stating that she had “never heard of such codes!”

I love artists–they are great creative people and deserve some concessions! Artists work hard and have a lot of expenses. They deserve a break–to be cut some slack.

Apparently the powers-that-be agree, for they created these special *97* series of codes (below) that signal shippers and customs agents internationally that the package contains artwork and is exempt from import duties.

Yes, I put one of the *97* export codes below, on one of my art shipments to Europe. The guy at the FedEx office, where I shipped from, was familiar with the code. 

How I came to have the *97* codes, came about when I’d shipped one of my sold paintings to Europe–without a *97* code– and the buyer unexpectedly had to pay an additional amount to get the package released. The European art dealer instrumental in the sale hadn’t liked that added expense for her client, so she did some investigating! Then she sent me the *97* series codes below.

These codes work. Some artists are glad to have them.

The trade tariff codes starting with number ’97’ alerts customs officials 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 the 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 and your buyers may have to pay fees!

I first published an article on these codes, on January 2, 2013–read it here.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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