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The ruling, which follows arguments put forward a year ago by Juliane Kokott, Advocate General at the ECJ, means a hike from five to 17.5 per cent.

The tax is payable on the auctioneer’s charges on works imported from outside the European Union that remain inside the EU after being sold in the UK.

While some feel that the rise will have a severe impact at the top end of the market, British Art Market Federation chairman Anthony Browne was more reassuring when the issue was raised in March last year.

“It’s true that it would make things marginally more expensive to EU buyers, but I don’t think it would damage the competitiveness of the British art market as much as, say, the incoming droit de suite charge,” he said at the time.

Ac cording to the ruling, listed as case C-305/03, the ruling does not affect dealers' costs or any other part of Import VAT beyond auctioneers' commissions.