Transport and Customs Duties

Working as an artist often goes hand in hand with travelling abroad. In this section you will find information on what you need to think of when you carry your equipment, works or art or even the entire theatre stage abroad with you or if you send such objects abroad.

People working in the cultural and creative sector are not used to thinking about borders between countries, but when it comes to practical matters, they need to think of customs duties and other issues connected with the transport of the works of art and equipment.

First, when we talk about travelling and sending objects abroad, a distinction has to be made between countries within the EU and outside the EU.

The EU applies the fundamental freedoms of free market, which comprise the free movement of persons, goods, services, and workers. So, within the EU, we do not have to deal with the issue of customs duties and other transport charges at all.

However, transport outside the EU, for example to Switzerland or Norway, is connected with a certain amount of red tape.

Transport within the European Union

The movement of goods within the European Union is essentially free of charge. No customs duties are applied.

Works of art, musical instruments, stage decorations, stage sets as well as any technical equipment may be transported within the EU without having to deal with customs formalities.

By establishing a customs union, the EU Member States removed customs duties among themselves, so customs duties are only collected at the external borders of the EU. Export or import duties and fees having the same effect as customs duties are directly prohibited among EU Member States. The free movement of goods (services, capital, and workers) is the basic prerequisite of the functioning of the EU’s internal market.

The European Union currently consists of 28 Member States. However, the following European countries are neither members of the EU nor members of the EU Customs Union: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Vatican. Switzerland may be an unpleasant surprise if you use it just as a transit country, not the final destination (see Transport outside the European Union).

Some European countries are not members of the EU but are members of the EU Customs Union: Andorra, Monaco, and San Marino.

Note: The EU customs territory also includes the Canary Islands (Spain) and the French overseas departments (Martinique, Réunion, Madeira, etc.)

Transport outside the European Union

In contrast to exports of goods (objects) within the European Union, for transports of goods (objects) beyond the borders of the EU it is necessary to distinguish the purpose of the transport. We use the term “goods” (see the Glossary) since regulations do not distinguish between works of art and artistic equipment and “ordinary” goods.