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Ahead of Timeless, the 54th annual Irish Antique Dealers Fair, in Dublin last weekend, the association wrote to finance minister Paschal Donohoe to urge the removal of VAT from antiques.

The threat of a no-deal Brexit on October 31 also influenced the timing of the dealers’ approach. Britain is a key source of art and antiques for the Irish market and in the event of no-deal, VAT would be payable on all imports from the UK.

Like their UK counterparts, Irish dealers registered for VAT pay the tax ‘on the margin’ – that is, on the difference between the purchase price and that achieved on the sale of an item.

Ireland’s standard rate of VAT is 23% but antiques qualify for the lower VAT rate of 13.5%, payable both at point of sale and on the cost of antiques restoration.

IADA is hoping for a response from Ireland's Department of Finance in advance of its next budget on October 8.

‘The original recyclers’

In Ireland, green products such as electric cars have tax incentives to encourage consumer uptake. Irish dealers believe the removal of VAT on antiques would incentivise people, particularly younger buyers, to purchase antiques and therefore reduce their carbon footprint.

Paul Brereton, president of IADA, described the trade as “the original recyclers”.

Antiques have one of the lowest environmental impacts of any industry, Brereton said, pointing out that an antique chair has a carbon footprint 16 times lower than a recently manufactured piece.

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Paul Brereton, president of the Irish Antique Dealers Association: "The industry is the front runner in retail renewables and should be recognised as such by the [Irish] state."

"The industry is the front runner in retail renewables and should be recognised as such by the state. If the state promotes the sale of antiques, it helps the planet through a reduction in manufacturing and waste.”

Message to younger buyers

Brereton, a dealer in watches and gold bullion, said the dealers were targeting younger buyers and potential future dealers with their green message.

“My peer group, and those ten years younger than me, all they want to know is the carbon footprint of the stuff they buy, be it energy supply, cars or food,” he said. “At the same time, the furniture mass-produced by certain high street retailers, aimed at younger audiences, doesn’t last and is all destined for land-fill.”

Carbon neutral target

Ireland is aiming to be a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

In 2002, the country became the first in the world to impose a tax on use of plastic bags. There are plans to ban single-use plastics in the near future, to reduce dependence on landfill.