New rules eliminate hassle for artists exhibiting abroad

Bahamian artists, like others in the region, have been amping up participation in exhibitions abroad. Hoping to share ideas that are often centered on socio-political movements in their respective countries, artists throughout the Caribbean believe promoting discourse is important to initiative global awareness and productive exchanges. And, on a more commercial basis, taking art to other markets provides opportunities to develop relationships with a broader spectrum of collectors.

In the past, some artists who exported their work for international shows and then returned with unsold pieces encountered complications related to import duty, which applies to all artwork being brought into The Bahamas. To much frustration, under the former system, duty based on the value of each artwork would be charged to returning artists, often resulting in hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in expenses. To alleviate the problem and to encourage more participation of Bahamian artists in international shows, the Ministry of Finance, in collaboration with the Department of Customs, has established a new procedure facilitating the import and export of artwork.

Works purchased or originating from abroad and being imported must be verified by The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB). After verification, the NAGB will coordinate with the Ministry of Finance to issue a certificate allowing the work(s) to be imported duty free; however, 7.5 percent VAT will still be applicable in all cases.

For artists or dealers exporting Bahamian-made work for international exhibitions, the new process—which will save on both import duty and VAT charges—requires the artists or show organizers to inform the NAGB in writing of their need to export local artwork for exhibition purposes, listing the artist’s name, the artwork titles, the medium, date and value.

Once verified by the NAGB, the institution will issue a letter to the Comptroller of Customs confirming the artwork(s) as legitimate product(s) of the country, valid for a temporary export license. A fee of $50 will be applied for this administrative process, though the service will be provided free of charge for NAGB members, who are ‘fellows’ of the gallery and above. With this confirmation in hand, the exporting artists or dealers can obtain an Export Certificate for Goods Intended for Re-importation from the Customs Department (known as a C40). This can be acquired by the individual or by the outbound shipper being used for the delivery of the goods. The Customs Department will then grant approval for a nominal value to be used as the value of the artwork when it returns, thereby eliminating the former practice of valuing the work at its actual cost, which would result in extremely high duty and processing fees. The nominal value guarantees a minimal processing fee of $10 per piece; while the work will come in duty free and VAT-free.

The new process results in a simplified and much cheaper experience for artists exhibiting abroad. For more information on how the NAGB can help with exhibiting internationally, contact the gallery at 328-5800.