A national political advisor said in his proposal to the fourth session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) that China should cut taxes to promote the return of lost cultural relics.

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Visitors take photos of a stone Buddha head of a statue in Cave 8 of the Tianlongshan Grottoes during an exhibition at Luxun Museum in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 12, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Wan Jie, a member of the CPPCC National Committee and chairman of Artron Art Group, is in Beijing to attend the fourth session of China's top political advisory body, which will last from March 4 – 10. Wan has various proposals including ones regarding the art market and cultural relic auctions.

"The government should reduce or exempt taxes, in order to encourage the return of cultural relics, and promote the development of the cultural relic and art market in China," he said, pointing out that this move will give confidence to cultural causes and the cultural relic market. "Let the market bring back cultural relics from overseas that belong in China. We must never turn away relics that should be returned."

Currently, cultural relics lost overseas are treated the same as foreign commodities when they are imported back to China, which obstructs the development of China's cultural relic market and the cause of cultural relic protection.

Considering that importing cultural relics is not the same as importing foreign goods, Wan Jie suggested that the authorities could include a tax exemption for returning relics in the legislation of China's value-added tax law. Such an exemption would remove import value-added tax, add "arts, collections and antiquities originating in China" as an import category and lower the tax rate to zero.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce, China's annual auction of cultural relics and artworks has been declining for years. The market only made 22.16 billion yuan in 2019, a decrease of 15.00% from the previous year. Under such circumstances, international cultural relics resources and domestic funds will leave China for other markets.

Without new legislation, Wan fears that Chinese collectors will reduce their purchases of cultural relics abroad due to tax rates; foreign cultural relic management agencies will reduce their participation in cultural relic trading activities such as domestic fairs; and foreign collectors will reduce entrusting domestic auction houses to auction their relics. This ultimately means that it will be very difficult to return Chinese cultural relics back to China.

Wan believes that the return of cultural relics represents a country's national strength and shows that the country places a strong emphasis on its cultural heritage.