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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Tax and duty on goods brought to the UK from outside the European Union

When you travel to the UK from outside the European Union (EU), you can bring in a certain amount of duty/tax-free goods for your own use. This is known as an 'allowance'. If you go over this allowance you may have to pay duty and/or tax.

Duty and tax-free allowances – arrivals from non EU countries

The allowances below cover the most common items that you can bring into the UK duty and/or tax-free from outside the EU.

You must also meet certain conditions listed in the section ‘Additional conditions when bringing goods into the UK’. If you don't meet these conditions or you go over your allowance you’ll have to pay any Customs Duty, Excise Duty and/or Import VAT due.

For passengers who are in transit and changing flights in an EU airport there are set conditions that apply regarding liquids, including any duty-free purchases you’ve made.

Alcohol allowances

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

Alternatively you can combine these allowances. For example, if you bring in 1 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

Tobacco allowances

You can bring in one from the following list:

  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 250 grams of tobacco

Alternatively 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.

Other goods including perfume and souvenirs

You can bring in other goods worth up to £390 without having to pay tax and/or duty. If you arrive by private plane or private boat, you can only bring in goods worth up to £270 tax and duty-free.

If you bring in any single item worth more than your 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.

Additional conditions when bringing goods into the UK

To qualify for the tax/duty free allowances you also need to meet the following conditions:

  • you must transport the goods yourself
  • the goods must be for your own use or as a gift - if the person you give the goods to pays you in any way (including reimbursing you for any expenses), then it's not a gift and you'll have to pay the duty and/or tax
  • to bring in alcohol or tobacco you must be aged 17 or over

Declaring goods to customs

You must make a declaration to customs when entering the UK from non-EU countries if:

  • you exceed your allowances
  • the goods are for commercial use (see link below for information on merchandise in baggage)
  • you have 10,000 euros or more (or its equivalent) in cash
  • you think you may have banned or restricted goods

To do this you should use the red channel or the red-point phone. The customs officer from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) will tell you if any tax or duty is owed and how to pay.

How much duty or tax do you pay?

If you exceed the allowances and/or don’t meet the additional conditions set out above you will have to pay the appropriate charges which may include:

  • Customs Duty
  • Excise Duty if the goods are tobacco or alcohol
  • Import VAT (VAT will also be due on any duties that may be charged)

Customs Duty rates

In all instances Customs Duty is waived if the amount of the duty payable is less than £9.

For other goods brought into the UK by travellers, Customs Duty only applies on goods above £270 or £390 (whichever is appropriate) in value. Over this allowance and up to £630 there is a duty flat rate of 2.5 per cent.

For goods over £630, the Customs Duty rate charged depends on the type of goods. You can check the rates by calling the VAT, Customs and Excise Helpline.

Excise Duty rates

Excise Duty is payable on all alcohol or tobacco products that go over the duty-free allowances or do not meet the additional conditions. You can check alcohol and tobacco Excise Duty rates on the HM Revenue & Customs website.

Import VAT

Import VAT is charged as a percentage of the total value of the goods plus any other duties payable. The rate is the same VAT rate that applies to similar goods that are sold in the UK

Banned and restricted goods

There are some goods that you're never allowed to bring into the UK including illegal drugs and all offensive weapons. There are also some goods that are restricted and need a licence or permit to be imported.

Some foods are also restricted – for example you're not allowed to bring in meat or dairy products from most countries outside the EU.

Getting more help and advice

If you need more information about bringing in goods to the UK from outside the EU, you can contact the VAT, Customs and Excise Helpline by following the link below.

Provided by HM Revenue and Customs

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