Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne, chairman of British Art Market Federation (BAMF).

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TA is a customs procedure allowing items into and out of the country on a temporary import basis.

Usually, if TA import arrangements are used and the items are re-exported within two years of import, then no VAT is payable provided that proof of export is obtained.

However, the system has many flaws and is not designed for smaller dealers due to its complexity and cost.

As part of a document titled Summary of customs simplification measures published this month, HMRC and the Treasury set out the “next steps on a package of measures to simplify customs import and export processes for traders”.

This document includes a ‘Strategic review of Temporary Admission’ and said it is “exploring options to simplify and improve the Temporary Admission procedure… to help reduce the administrative burden on traders and facilitate movement of imported goods to support wider economic activity”.

The government received responses fol lowing a consultation earlier this year and will update on its plans in the new year. It said the “scope to improve eligibility criteria, conditions of use and timing requirements either across the board or in respect of specific sectors” is being looked at and it will “engage further with stakeholders on improvements to Temporary Admission in early 2024”.

Art and antiques trade bodies, led by the British Art Market Federation (BAMF), have been lobbying for a change to the system and submitted extensive responses during the consultation period.

BAMF chairman Anthony Browne said: “We are very pleased that the government is looking at this seriously. We have suggested a number of improvements and we hope very much that we will be able to discuss these with the HMRC policy team in the new year.

“If we can get improvements on TA then it will go a long way in helping solve the problem.”

“Improvements should make the whole system easier and better for people to use and more in tune with current practices.

“Cross-border trade is key to the art market and we have got to try and attract as much business from overseas as possible.”

Streamlined system

Among the changes to TA proposed by BAMF is extending the time period from two to four years, streamlining the procedure to make it less costly and a better approach for items needing to be restored.

Mark Dodgson

Mark Dodgson, secretary general of the British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA).

Mark Dodgson, secretary general of the British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA), said: “Many BADA members have been struggling with the process of importing and exporting goods from the EU, and if using the margin scheme have to pay unreclaimable import VAT on the goods they bring into the UK.

“Temporary Admission is an excellent scheme for the larger dealers who have the resources to administer it but for smaller dealers it is far too complex. We would very much welcome a simplification of TA so that a much larger number of dealers can take advantage of it. That’s why we, along with others in the trade, called on the government to improve TA.

“We await with much interest the full details of the government’s proposals.”

Freya Simms

Freya Simms, chief executive of LAPADA.

Freya Simms, chief executive of LAPADA, said: “At LAPADA we would certainly welcome any changes that make the movement and sale of goods less onerous for our members and are pleased to have been able to contribute to the consultation.”

TA is particularly useful to dealers attending fairs from overseas. Thomas Woodham Smith, co-founder of The Treasure House Fair, said: “I believe that a streamlining of TA is a vital component of restoring our trading links with Europe and the world. Without it we are crippling our chances of trading and even competing with Europe and their free flow of goods. It is not only an administrative nightmare but also an emotional one.

“Travelling in Europe the constant refrain one hears is both the despair at Brexit itself but more than that the way that cross-Channel business is thwarted and frustrated.”

VAT plea

Separately, BAMF is also cont inuing to lobby government to reduce import VAT for art and antiques from the current 5% and return to the 1990s when it was zero.

Details about the TA proposals can be found on the government website at summary-of-customs-simplification-measures-december-2023