Know how much you can buy without paying import duty or VAT
If you are planning an overseas holiday in the New Year or spending your money buying goods online from non-EU websites, you need to know how much you can buy without paying import duty or VAT.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Head of Customs Policy, Mike Coussins, said: “With the New Year sales in full swing, HMRC are keen to remind the general public how much they can bring back from abroad or buy from an overseas website without having to pay import duty or VAT.
“You don’t want to be faced with unexpected extra charges, when you thought you had found a bargain.”
Travellers arriving in the UK by commercial sea or air transport from a non-EU country can bring in up to £390 worth of goods for personal use without paying customs duty or VAT (excluding tobacco and alcohol, which have separate allowances, and fuel). People arriving by other means, including by private plane or boat for pleasure purposes, can bring in goods up to the value of £270.
Should you buy goods over the internet or by mail order from outside the EU, you will have to pay VAT if the value of the package is over £18. If over £135, customs duty may also be due, although this will depend on what the goods are and where they have been sent from. Where, however, the actual amount of duty due is less than £9, this will not be charged.
If someone sends you a gift in the post from outside the EU, import VAT will only be due if the package is valued at over £40. To qualify as a gift, the item must be sent from one private individual to another, with no money changing hands.
Please note that excise duty is always due on all alcohol and tobacco products purchased online or by mail order.
If you are thinking of going across the Channel to replenish beers, wines, spirits or tobacco products, there are no limits on the amounts of duty and tax paid goods you can bring back personally from another EU country, as long as they are for your own use and not sold on. You may, however, be asked questions at the UK frontier if you have more than 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine, 10 litres of spirits and/or 20 litres of fortified wines, 3,200 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 400 cigarillos or 3kg of tobacco. This is to confirm that these are genuinely for your own use.
The duty-free limits for imports of alcohol and tobacco products from outside the EU are:
You can bring in either, but not both, of the following:
- 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22 per cent volume.
- 2 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), sparkling wine or any other alcoholic drink that's less than 22 per cent volume.
Or you can combine these allowances. For example, if you bring in one litre of fortified wine (half your full allowance) you can also bring in half a litre of spirits (half your full allowance). This would make up your full allowance. You can't go over your total alcohol allowance.
In addition you may also bring back both of the following:
- 16 litres of beer
- 4 litres of still wine
You can bring in one from the following list:
- 200 cigarettes
- 100 cigarillos
- 50 cigars
- 250g of tobacco
Or you can combine these allowances. For example, if you bring in 100 cigarettes (half your full allowance) you can also bring in 25 cigars (half your full allowance). This would make up your full tobacco allowance. You can’t go over your total tobacco allowance.
You cannot combine alcohol and tobacco allowances.
When travelling to the UK from outside the EU, if you bring in any single item worth more than the £390 goods allowance, you must pay duty and/or tax on the full item value, not just the value above the allowance. You also cannot group individual allowances together to bring in an item worth more than the limit.
Detailed information on the non-EU limits for alcohol and tobacco products can be found on HMRC’s website at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/arriving/arrivingnoneu.htm
Further information on postal imports and travellers allowances can be found at: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/index.htm