The process of bringing almost any item into the UK from abroad is governed by a strict tax regulations, as well as other rules, in order to protect the country and its economy.
When travelling from the EU to the UK
You do not have to pay any tax or duty on goods you have bought in another EU country as long as:
- Tax was included in the price when you purchased the items,
- The items are for your own use, and have been transported to the UK by you.
Own use includes gifts, but does not include any item that is intended to be used as payment or to be resold.
If you bring back large quantities of alcohol or tobacco, a Customs Officer is more likely to ask about the purposes for which you hold the goods – they will assume that they are not solely for your own use.
This will most likely be the case if you appear at the port or airport with more than:
- 800 cigarettes
- 400 cigarillos
- 200 cigars
- 1 kg of smoking tobacco
- 110 litres of beer
- 10 litres of spirits
- 90 litres of wine
- 20 litres of fortified wine e.g. port or sherry
EU countries currently include: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus (Greek part), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Irish Republic, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (but not the Canary Islands), Sweden and the United Kingdom (but not the Channel Islands). Gibraltar is excluded for this purpose.
When travelling from outside the EU to the UK
You are allowed to bring in the following, provided you travel with the items and do not intend to sell them.
- 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 50 cigars, or 250g of tobacco
- 4 litres of still table wine
- 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22% volume; or 2 litres of fortified wine, sparkling wine or other liqueurs
- 16 litres of beer
- 60cc/ml of perfume
- £390 worth of all other goods including gifts and souvenirs
Buying online or receiving gifts from abroad
Those buying online or by mail order from outside the EU will have to pay VAT if the value of the package is over £15. Customs duty may also be payable for goods over £135.
Those receiving gifts from outside EU will be charged import VAT if the package is valued at more than £40..