The European Commission (EC) has reversed a decision made in a UK tax tribunal, and refused to classify works by Dan Flavin and Bill Viola as “art.” Given that the the decision is binding on all member states, for now, UK galleries and auction houses will have to pay full VAT (value added tax) and customs dues on video and light works, when they are imported from outside the EU. The new classification goes against a victory won in a UK tribunal in 2008 (The Art Newspaper).
The Art Newspaper reports “A legal battle began after the Haunch of Venison gallery imported six disassembled video installations by Viola into the UK from the US in 2006, and sought to import a light sculpture by Flavin. Declared as “sculpture”, they would only have been liable for 5% VAT.But customs rejected this, and charged Haunch of Venison £36,000 duty. In 2008 Haunch appealed, and won: the VAT and Duties Tribunal ruled that such works were indeed “art” and only liable to 5% VAT.”
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