UK Government

HM Revenue & Customs: Changes to personal import allowances

Press Release   •   Jan 05, 2010 11:04 GMT

The value of goods that travellers can personally bring into the UK from a non-EU country, or receive through the post without needing to pay customs duty, has increased.

Travellers arriving in the UK by commercial sea or air transport from a non-EU country can now bring in up to £390 worth of goods for personal use (excluding tobacco and alcohol, which have separate allowances, and fuel) without paying customs duty or VAT. Those arriving by other means, including by private plane or boat for pleasure purposes, can bring in goods up to the value of £270.

Individuals who buy goods over the internet or by mail order from outside the EU will now only be charged customs duty if the value of the package is above £135, and the actual amount of duty due is over £9.

Although the duty limits have changed, import VAT is still due on packages valued at over £18.  However, if a package is received as a ‘gift’, VAT will only now be charged if its value exceeds £40.

With regard to excise duty on tobacco products, the remaining quantitative restrictions on personal imports of cigarettes from Bulgaria, Romania. Lithuania and Estonia (and smoking tobacco from Estonia) have now been lifted. This means that since 1 January 2010 private individuals travelling from these Member States can now bring back unlimited amounts of these goods for own use, thereby enjoying the same benefits as those travelling back from other Member States.

Notes to editors

1.         These changes came into effect on 1 January 2010.

2.         The previous traveller’s allowances were:

·         Personal travellers allowance (by air or sea) - £340 worth of ‘other goods’.

·         Personal travellers allowance (by any other means, including private plane or boat) - £240.

3.         The previous limit for exemption from customs duty on parcels received from a non-EU country was £120, while the ‘de minimis’ amount, before it would actually be charged, was £7.

4.         The duty-free limits for imports of alcohol and tobacco products from outside the EU have not changed. These are:

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.

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

Tobacco allowances

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.

5.         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.

6.         The previous VAT-free limit for postal gifts was £36. In order to qualify as a gift for import purposes, the following conditions apply:

·                     It must have been sent from a private person outside the EU to a private person(s) in the UK.

·                     Excise Duty is payable on any alcohol or tobacco products.

·                     The Customs Declaration must be completed correctly.

·                     It must be for the use of either you or your family.

·                     There must be no commercial or trade element and it must not have been paid for by the recipient either directly or indirectly.

·                     It must be of an occasional nature only - for example for a birthday or anniversary.

·                     In the case of perfume or toilet water, import VAT is due if in excess of 50g of perfume or 0.25l of toilet water.

7.         Further information on postal imports and travellers allowances can be found at:   http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/index.htm

Contacts

NDS Enquiries
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department
ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk