Parliament: Harmonisation: Tax aid for art market urged

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DAWN PRIMAROLO, the Paymaster General, will make an eleventh- hour attempt to exempt London's pounds 2.5bn art market from European Union taxes today, arguing the charges would damage its international competitiveness.

Ms Primarolo has requested a meeting in Brussels with the European commissioner Mario Monti to discuss the planned harmonisation of VAT on imported art ahead of ameeting with European Union members on 25 February.

The harmonisation of taxes on art, antiques and jewellery would raise VAT in Britain from 2.5 per cent to 5 per cent. It would be combined with the introduction of droit de suite, which will give resale rights and a royalty payment to the artist's family up to 70 years after his or her death. While the change will benefit artists, it could drive dealers to rival centres, such as New York and Geneva.

Britain has no automatic right to block the proposals, but Ms Primarolo hopes to convince Commissioner Monti to apply a reduced rate of VAT throughout Europe.