ICEFAT is an official, worldwide democratic organization representing 70 of the finest independent art transportation firms from 33 countries. Each member specializes in handling and shipping works of art, artifacts and antiquities for museums, galleries and dealers, corporate and private collectors and the premier auction houses.
See a complete membership list and contact info for the companies here.
Q1: Can you provide a short historical summary for why the TAAR Act has been introduced to the US Senate?
For the past several years, the Antiquities Coalition and other groups have lobbied for legislation to address the looting and trafficking of illicit antiquities in the United States. In May 2016, President Obama signed the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, which restricts the importation of Syrian antiquities illegally removed from that country since March 15, 2011, building on restrictions in place for Iraqi antiquities since 2004. The TAAR Act is meant to give Federal and State law enforcement new tools to stop the domestic trade in Syrian and Iraqi-origin cultural objects, by:
- Amending the National Stolen Property Act (“NSPA”) to include all cultural property over $50 removed from a foreign country in violation of any foreign law. However, “cultural property” will include virtually all collecting categories of art and antiques.
- Creating an Inventory Database System that requires any person in the US who imports, sells or gifts Syrian or Iraqi-origin cultural property to provide to the government with information and documentation about when and where the property was obtained, and such other information as the government considers appropriate. This database could be expanded in the future to cover all art market transactions in the US.
- Requiring the government to develop regulations for a government database for all cultural property transactions that includes information on provenance and prior ownership.
Greetings from Miami where much of the art world and quite a few of the logistics companies serving this grand market, are toiling away. We have heard there are in excess of 20 separate venues where each location has their own peculiarities. There was a building with a broken freight elevator that necessitated the removal of a wall on the mezzanine so that cases of artwork could be fork lifted from the street to the show floor! Not exactly representative of the highest standards in art handling, but commerce demands that we get the job done.
To be honest, even museums require innovative solutions. That’s where we come in. Designing specialized equipment for very specific tasks and at ICEFAT, educating each other about it. Less than a month ago we were in Geneva at our 40th anniversary convention, where we learned about techniques for protecting property whilst raising artworks up staircases. The importance of this organization cannot be overstated. We encourage an exchange of dialogue, not just from within our ever growing group of fine art logistics professionals, but from without, to the institutional, museum, academic and commercial customer base as well.
The basic understanding is that in NY and the USA, it is the responsibility of the seller to collect NY Sales Tax, not the responsibility of the buyer to pay it.
Recently, the NY Department of Taxation and Finance (NYDTF) has clarified its own language as it pertains to the seller’s responsibility to collect NY Sales Tax.
In the past, we all worked under this principle:
If an artwork leaves NY State after it is sold, then the seller is NOT obligated to collect NY Sales Tax. It only mattered that the work left NY State by a licensed shipper that could produce licensed shipping documents proving the departure from NY State (like an IATA AWB for instance). It did not matter whether the seller or buyer arranged the shipment or who paid whom for the shipping itself.
Important note: NY State defined what I call a ‘licensed shipper’ above as a ‘common carrier’. The greater art handling industry here and abroad simply interpreted ‘common carrier’ favorably to mean virtually any licensed shipping agent, and according to the now defunct Interstate Commerce Commission, it was. With this favorable interpretation, the seller needed only a bill of lading from any licensed shipper showing the property was delivered out of state. Until this year, the NYDTF more or less agreed with this interpretation of common carrier.