Creative industries: international trade regulations
As an exporter or importer in the creative industries sector, you will need to comply with certain regulations.
This guide will give you sources of further help and support, to show you how to research any trade restrictions in your export market, classify your goods for export and accurately declare any imports.
Read more about service industries.
Export regulations in the creative industries sector
Regulations, charges or other restrictions may apply to any exports as they leave the UK and when they arrive at their destination country. It is important that you research both sides of the transaction.
Read more about exporting your goods from the EU to a third country.
First, you need to classify your goods. Use of standardised classification codes makes it easier to check if any restrictions or charges apply.
See an introduction to the Tariff.
Remember that in general it's much simpler to trade with other European Union (EU) countries than with countries outside the EU. This is because the goods are in free circulation. The EU is a single market and the UK is in a Customs Union, so you can trade with other EU countries without restriction (although some local charges may still apply).
Other sector-specific export rules
Export licensing for goods with military uses
An export licence is required to export specified goods with military uses. Read more about export licences for military and dual-use goods.
Firearms, arms and armour over 50 years of age are cultural goods and you will also need to obtain a licence from the Arts Council for those above certain financial thresholds. The list of goods requiring a licence does not include many creative or media goods/services, although one notable exception is for cryptographic development software.
Export licensing for objects of cultural interest
Exporting goods for processing
You may be able to obtain relief from customs duties when you re-import European Union (EU) goods that have previously been exported from the EU for processing. Outward Processing Relief (OPR) enables you to claim relief from customs duty if you can show that the exported goods were used in - or incorporated into - the products being imported.
Before you can claim duty relief under OPR, however, you must have the appropriate authorisation.
Specific regulations for the export of creative industries goods
Before you export any creative industries products, you must find out if you need a licence or need to comply with any sector-specific regulations.
Because of the high value of many goods in this sector - particularly artworks and antiques - you may have to comply with money laundering procedures. Read more about money laundering regulations.
If you travel to trade fairs and exhibitions, or take film, theatre and music productions overseas, you can use an ATA Carnet to minimise the red tape involved in bringing goods temporarily into many countries. Read more about ATA and CPD carnets.
Researching your export destination in the creative and media sector
You should thoroughly research your export destination country when planning to export.
There are a number of issues that you ought to consider. As a starting point you may wish to seek advice from Invest Northern Ireland.
There are also various ways that you can research a potential export destination. These include:
- trade associations
- online databases
You can also use the Market Access Database to find out if your goods are affected by restrictions and charges at their destination country, together with all applicable duties and taxes. Key things to check include:
- prohibitions or quotas on your products
- import licensing restrictions
- rates of duty payable when your goods enter your export market
You should also consider product safety and other technical standards in your export market. Your goods may need to be adapted to comply with these. Rules in your export market may be less or more strict than in the UK.
Read more about researching and entering overseas markets.
You can ask for information about your export destination country from a range of organisations, including:
- the Invest Northern Ireland International trade team
- your UK Trade & Investment team within the commercial section of the UK embassy in your destination country
- creative and media sector trade associations
- Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce
Tariffs and duties in the creative and media sector
A range of import-specific regulations must be complied with by all businesses in this sector. The key issues relate to the Tariff, duties, tax refund and Intrastat reporting requirements. Read more about import regulations in the creative industries sector.
Using the Integrated Tariff
A common customs tariff is applied across all European Union (EU) countries on goods imported from outside the EU. Details of specific tariff duties and measures are contained in the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom.
See an introduction to the Tariff.
The Tariff is used to determine the specific classification code of your goods and to find:
- any licensing requirements that apply
- the rates of duty and import VAT that apply
- any additional charges, such as anti-dumping duties
- any available preferential duty rates
Preferential rates of duty
The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) allows originating products from a range of countries to be imported into the EU at a reduced or zero duty rate. For more information on how to determine whether a product is an originating one, read Notice 830 - Tariff Preference: New GSP rules of origin.
The European Community has a number of other trade agreements with third countries, as a result of which goods may attract preferential rates of duty.
Sector-specific taxation or refunds
Specific schemes may apply to certain creative and media output.
A British film, for example, may be eligible for interim or final Film Tax Relief (FTR), depending on whether or not the film has been completed, and whether it meets:
- the cultural test - ie the legal definition of a British film
- the terms of one of the UK's bilateral co-production treaties
- the terms of the European Convention on Cinematic Co-Production
You must have the film formally certified as qualifying for FTR. For more information, browse the index of the Film Production Company Manual.
Special tax treatment may apply to non-UK resident entertainers who appear in the UK or to businesses paying such entertainers. You can find more information on the Foreign Entertainers Unit.
If you are VAT registered and the goods you acquire from or supply to VAT-registered businesses in other EU countries reach the Intrastat exemption threshold for the year, you must submit monthly supplementary declarations to HMRC. The current thresholds are £1.5 million for Arrivals and £250,000 for Dispatches.
Intrastat is the method of collecting information and producing statistics on goods traded between EU member states. See Intrastat - reporting the value and volume of intra-EU trade. Intrastat is only applicable to VAT-registered traders.
Import regulations in the creative industries sector
As the European Union (EU) is a Customs Union, you can buy goods from other member countries without restrictions - although VAT and excise duty can still apply. See trading in the European Union.
If you import from outside the EU, you may have to comply with import licensing requirements and with common customs tariffs that apply across the EU. Read more about importing your goods from outside the EU.
Import restrictions can be product-specific or trade-specific. Many products are subject to product-specific standards and need to be supported by applicable certificates, product-specific licences and documentation.
Quite separately, quantitative restrictions or limitations and anti-dumping duties may apply to certain imported commodities.
Use the UK Trade Tariff for classifying your goods in order to find out which duties and measures apply.
Key import rules
Importers must comply with a range of general requirements. If your business activity involves selling works of art to overseas buyers through UK-based auction houses, auction houses will usually be able to help you comply with trade regulations.
Foreign artists and entertainers you bring in to the UK are subject to withholding tax. Read more about withholding tax.
Goods imported to the UK must comply with domestic business standards.
Protecting the intellectual property inherent in your design and creative output
Intellectual property (IP) is any form of original creation that can be bought or sold - from music to a unique item of merchandise. The four main types of IP rights are patents, trade marks, designs and copyright but there are many other ways to protect your IP.
Copyright protects written, theatrical, musical and artistic works as well as film, book layouts, sound recordings, and broadcasts. As it is an automatic legal right, you can't actually apply for it. You may, however, be able to buy, sell or transfer copyright.
Usually your copyright work will be protected abroad automatically in the same way that it is protected in the UK. See copyright for your business.
As IP rights account for much of the value created in the creative and media sector, you should carefully consider how to protect your business. Even if you protect IP at home, you are advised to check the strength of IP protection in each country so as not to lose marketing opportunities abroad. For example, a UK producer will have little success in marketing a film overseas if pirated copies are already circulating.
You should incorporate IP protection into all your business relationships including suppliers, distributors, partners, customers and your employees. Protection is particularly important where these relationships relate to technology transfer or transfer of business knowledge.
You can read about how and when to use IP.
You should also ensure that your imported goods do not breach the IP rights of other businesses, eg watch out for counterfeit goods and design infringements. Infringing goods can be seized and destroyed by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). You can ask HMRC to check for imported counterfeit versions of your goods.
Sources of help and support in the creative industries sector
As an importer or exporter in the creative industries sector, you can turn to a range of bodies for help and information.
The government organisation with primary responsibility for providing trade support to Northern Ireland exporters is Invest Northern Ireland. The Department for International Trade has an impartial global presence in countries throughout the world and helps businesses realise their international potential through knowledge transfer and ongoing partnership support.
Other government sources of help and information
In addition to Invest Northern Ireland, other government bodies that provide business support in the creative and media sector include:
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) provides sector-specific assistance.
Creative industries sector trade associations and other bodies