Know the Basics: UK and EU Customs Control

Does the item you are importing into the UK or EU fall under customs control? There are a number of nuances and complicated procedures around imports throughout Europe, which can cause headaches for both buyers and sellers. While regulations have slight variations within each country, we are outlining the basics—including questions to ask and terms to know—to help our clients be more prepared for cross border shipments.

What type of goods fall under Customs Control? 

If a good was created within Europe, or was imported into the EU with tax/duty paid, this means it is in Free Circulation and can move between countries within the EU Customs Union—including the UK, for now!—without tax/duties owed when crossing borders.

Congratulations! You do not need to worry about customs control and can carry on with your day.

However, if the goods were imported into Europe from outside the EU, there is a possibility they are under customs control. When importing artworks into Europe, VAT is due based on the value of the goods, and costs vary depending on the country of import. You can read more about customs control on our blog.

In the UK, when artworks are brought into the country for a show, exhibition, or long-term storage, there are two main ways to import without incurring duties and taxes: Temporary Admission (TA) or Bond (read about the differences here, and note that works imported under TA or Bond require additional administrative work that can result in additional charges and delays to the movement of goods). When a work has been imported in this manner, it can be referred to as having been imported under Customs Control.

NOTE: There are other forms of customs control outside of TA or Bond, so if in doubt, please refer to the questions below to ensure you are navigating customs correctly (and of course, you can also contact your ARTA representative with questions at any time.)

Questions you should ask or research regarding Customs Control for your goods: 


Have the goods been previously exported from Europe? 

If the items were exported from Europe within the last 3 years, they can return as European Returning Goods. 

  • If returning within 3 years, no VAT or duty is due. 
  • Documents needed are: Original Export AWB, Invoice and Proof of Export
  • Items must be re-imported exactly how they were exported. I.e. the importer must have the same EORI as the original exporter. 
  • No additional costs are incurred for this service. 


Are the goods for temporary admission? 

If so, ask which type (i.e. Full Waiver Temporary Admission, Bond, NIRU, IPR, etc.). 

  • Once determined, we will need one of the following: The gallery/shipper’s TA account number,  Bonded warehouse number, NIRU Authorisation, or IPR Authorisation
  • If the client cannot provide any of the above, a Simplified TA is a solution to this – ask your ARTA representative for more information on this process
  • Additional costs will likely be incurred for any type of TA, depending on the shipper used. 
WHEN exporting…

Are the goods in free circulation? 

If not, ask what type of Customs Control the items are under. 

  • If in free circulation (confirmed in writing), you can proceed as normal. 
  • If under customs control, your ARTA quote will need to be adjusted to include those additional costs. In most cases, traditional timeframes cannot be adhered to as well. 

If you are unsure of the answers to these questions or need additional insight regarding customs control, please reach out to your ARTA representative.


About ARTA

We provide end-to-end logistics solutions for merchants and marketplaces worldwide.

We’re continuously evolving our e-commerce infrastructure for the global collectibles industry through automated transaction, fulfillment, and post-purchase technology.

ARTA’s software provides instant shipping and handling quotes for any item type, regardless of size, material, or price point. Our API automates shipping and fulfillment for high-value items, providing a frictionless purchasing experience for our clients’ buyers.