Import of Works of Art to the Czech Republic

Imports of goods to the Czech Republic are subject to customs duties, the value added tax, and excise duties. This does not apply to a situation where the goods are of non-commercial nature, i.e. the goods are intended for personal needs of the importing person or as a gift for an individual, as such import is taking place on an occasional basis only. It is also important to check the value of the goods. For transport by air it is limited to EUR 450 per person.  For further information see here.

Example

I am buying a large-format photograph of a high value taken by a U.S.-based photographer to furnish my flat. When the consignment arrives in the territory of the Czech Republic (by air), it must go through the customs clearance process. Who will arrange this? In this case, the courier company will secure the customs clearance agent who will carry out the customs clearance.

Note: Freeports in Geneva, Luxembourg, Singapore, and Beijing. Duty-free zones exempt from duties. Freeports currently contain objects of priceless cultural value.

Transit transport

The European customs law uses the term transit for a situation where goods are transported via the territory of a particular country without being permanently imported into it. Transit means the transport of goods from one customs office to another. Transit thus functions as a temporary import and export.

When the transit concerns goods of temporary admission, an ATA Carnet is used (see ATA Carnet).

In the case of transit transport, it is necessary to make sure that the carnet contains blue tear-off sheets. You will then fill in these sheets at the customs offices of the transit countries. Both the entry and the exit must be confirmed, and the validity period set by the customs office must be observed. The validity period means the period for re-export (the exit from the transit country and the journey to another customs office). It usually lasts only a few days and must be observed without exception.

If goods are transported without an ATA Carnet, a customs deposit must be made at the border with the transit country, its amount depending on the value of the goods.

If you are transporting goods from one EU country to another and travelling, for example, through Switzerland, you will not avoid customs formalities. These can nevertheless be handled at any customs office at the EU border.

If the destination country comes in second and is therefore preceded by a transit country (e.g. a journey from the Czech Republic via Switzerland to Israel), it is advisable to conclude an agreement with the transport company setting down the driver’s liability for obtaining a stamp in the ATA Carnet in the transit country both upon the exit and upon the return. The driver who will load the cargo in the Czech Republic will thus be liable for obtaining the Swiss stamp on the journey there and back. The customs office in the Czech Republic that will close the carnet after the return will want to see the stamp from the transit country.

Carrier

Besides the “traditional” carrier on the market, there are also firms specialising in transportation of works of art and fragile items.

The type of transport should be chosen also with regard to the size of the consignment. You can choose from transport by road, by air, by train or – for large consignments – by ship.

Transportation of works of art and fragile items is always risky, and in some cases, some wear and tear cannot be avoided. The transport of valuable items requiring special treatment should, of course, be kept as short as possible.

  1. Transport companies specialising in the transportation of works of art
    Such companies are able to provide a full-service including packaging, customs clearance, insurance, and other related services. These companies are able to produce packaging and containers for individual works or art, including air-conditioning. Such specialised transport service can, of course, be expected to be connected with higher financial costs.
    E.g.
    Kunsttrans
    Art Union
    Artex Art Servises
  2. A traditional transport company will offer cheaper services, but the standards of treatment of the goods will be different, too. In such case, we recommend that you secure high-quality packaging material (which can be bought from companies specialising in transportation of fragile items).

The type of transport you choose is also important. For these reasons, you should plan the trip well in advance, because if you choose, for example, transport by sea, the ship will wait until the containers (at collection points) as well as the entire ship are filled up before the ship sets off, which can take several weeks or even months. Transport to distant countries is actually a matter of months.

Example

An import of building material for the construction of a small school in Africa. Or a transport of large stage sets.

Courier companies

Courier companies such as DHL, FedEx and UPS are able to ship goods all over the world within a few days. They are able to offer a variety of shipping options depending on the requested speed of delivery. Both companies provide detailed information on their websites.

However, with regard to the risky character of the carriage of works of art, not all companies offer such transport. DHL, for example, only accepts consignments with a value of up to EUR 25,000. All carriers nevertheless accept large consignments.

When sending goods outside the European Union, we have to deal with customs formalities again:

  • Customs declaration (courier companies are also able to provide the declaring agent).
  • A commercial invoice or, in the case of a temporary use abroad, a proforma invoice.

These forms are available for download on the courier companies’ websites.

It is also useful to learn about the import regulations of the destination country.

DHL, for example, provides detailed information on what you need to arrange for a consignment to be transported to Russia, including Russia’s export and import regulations, and to China.

It is, of course, also possible to use the services of the Czech Post, which offers the “international insured parcel” service, and you can even pay extra fees for a “fragile parcel”.    For further information see the website of the Czech Post.  

Another option is to carry the goods personally, but you must be prepared for customs duties and other fees.

We can also recommend companies Spedica Plzeň, CS Cargo, and AFP Spedition. All these three companies are able to transport goods to Israel, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, etc.

Packaging and materials

If you are not using services of companies specialising in transport of works of art, you have to plan the entire process well and find out information about the final destination of your shipment: Who will receive the goods and how will the goods most likely be treated.

You should be prepared that customs officers will probably want to see the goods, so it is advisable to make sure that the transport container (a shock-proof wooden crate for valuable goods) or some other packaging can be opened and closed again in the same way. In such case, it is recommended to furnish the container with a lock.

Each package should bear the following information: company name, address, e-mail address and contact phone, description and photos of the item, and other information if necessary. The transport company will also require the exact dimensions of each package in the following order: height, width, and length, as well as the exact weight of the consignment.

You should also inquire whether the chosen packaging material meets the transportation regulations and the regulations of the destination country.  For example, untreated wood (used for the wooden crate) must not be imported to the United States and Australia. Also, you should not cover the goods in metal materials that would not pass through airport checks.

How to prepare a musical instrument for a flight:

  1. in the passenger compartment (if the size of the instruments allows) – a common musical instrument case suffices
  2. in the freight compartment – it is good to use a sufficiently firm cover with the label “Fragile” attached to it.

Airlines are not too willing to recognise claims for compensation for damaged luggage, so the best way is to insure such luggage before the trip.