Useful tips for Individuals who want to Import and Export Art Objects to and from Russia

by | Jul 28, 2014

Different procedures and documents are required for individuals who want to import and export art objects in/out of Russia depending on the nature of the Art object. Import and export of Art Objects by individuals may be really simple or quiet difficult depending on whether Art Object qualified as cultural value or not. 

Import and Export Art Objects

Russia is a member of the Customs Union, including Belarus and Kazakhstan. The same customs legislation is applied on the entire territory of the Customs Union. Therefore, once imported into one of the countries, items may be moved within the territory of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan without customs formalities.

Procedure of import and export of an art object depends on whether the art object is qualified as a cultural value under Russian law or not.

Art Objects Qualified as a Cultural Value

Russian law establishes a list of art objects that are qualified as cultural values. In general, an art object is regarded as a cultural value if it has historical, scientific, artistic or other cultural significance.

Certain categories of items of cultural value are not allowed to be sold and exported from the territory of Russia. The restrictions are applicable to the following cultural values:

  • movable objects of significant cultural value and classified under the Russian laws as particularly valuable objects of Russian cultural heritage;
  • movable objects protected by the Government;
  • cultural values stored in state museums; or
  • cultural values created over 100 years ago (with some exemptions).

Prohibition on export of such items is set forth in Russian law and the list is exhaustive.

The items of cultural value which are not included into the list of items prohibited to export can be exported pursuant to the decisions of the state authorities. The items of cultural value to be exported are also subject to obligatory examination.

If state authorities approve to export art items of cultural value, the respective certificate is issued. This certificate is considered to be a clearance to transfer the items of cultural value outside of Russia.

The items of cultural value can be exported by the following persons:

  • by their legal owner or
  • by person authorized by such owner or
  • by author of such items of cultural value prior to the sale.

Art Objects not Qualified as a Cultural Value

The abovementioned restrictions are not applicable to art objects that are considered as common souvenirs and cultural items in mass or series production. Thus, the art objects that are not qualified as a cultural value can be imported and exported without any formalities.

In general import of art objects to Russia is exempt from import customs duty, but subject to VAT at the rate of 18%.

Temporary Import of Art Object

However, temporary import is exempt also from tax under special circumstances. The temporary import regime is applied by the customs authorities based on:

  • the statement of the applicant;
  • the purposes and circumstances of such import.

The temporary import shall not exceed 2 years from the date of exercising customs temporary import control. In practice customs authorities establish the term of temporary import of up to one year.

The customs laws provide various benefits in respect of temporary import of cultural values. Hence, the cultural values created over 100 years ago can be imported to the Customs Union free of tax and duties for 5 years. Upon expiration of 5 years the owner of such cultural values shall:

  • export them or
  • pay VAT for import (18% of their value) and relevant interest.

Otherwise he/she will be liable for violation of the Russian laws. This relief is granted in respect of cultural values owned by foreigners and imported to the Customs Union free of charge for exhibitions.

It should be noted that in the cases specified above the cultural value imported to the Russian Federation must be duly declared to the Russian customs authorities.