9 Nov 2011 10:34 AM
Know your overseas shopping limits this Christmas

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 09 November 2011

Don’t get hit by unexpected charges when you are shopping for Christmas bargains this year, HMRC’s Angela Shephard advised today.

If you are going abroad to do Christmas shopping, or buying goods online from non-EU countries, you need to know how much you can buy before you have to pay import duty or VAT.

HM Revenue &amp; Customs (HMRC) Head of Customs Policy, Angela Shephard, said:

“We know many people like to go abroad at this time to buy their Christmas gifts, or buy online from non-EU countries, and think that the ‘cheaper’ price they see is always the price they finally pay. HMRC is keen to remind the general public how much they can actually bring back from abroad or buy from an online overseas seller 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.”

* Arriving in the UK by commercial sea or air transport from a non-EU country, you 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). Arriving by other means, including by private plane or boat for pleasure purposes, you can bring in goods up to the value of £270. Above these allowances and up to £630, there is a duty flat rate of 2.5 per cent.
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

* 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 £15.

* If the goods are over £135 in value, customs duty may also be due, although this will depend on what they 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 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. You may, however, be asked questions at the UK border if you have more than:

- 110 litres of beer,
- 90 litres of wine,
- 10 litres of spirits
- 20 litres of fortified wines,
- 800 cigarettes,
- 200 cigars,
- 400 cigarillos or
- 1kg of tobacco

to establish these quantities are genuinely for your own use.

Notes to editors

1. The duty-free limits for imports of alcohol and tobacco products from outside the EU 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 is 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 and 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.

2. When travelling to the UK from outside the EU, if you bring in any single item worth more than the £390 goods allowance (£270 if arriving by other means, including private plane or boat for pleasure purposes) , 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.

3. HM Treasury announced that, from 1 November, the low value consignment relief limit (for goods bought over the internet or by mail order from outside the EU) has been reduced to £15.
Further information on postal imports and travellers allowances can be found at: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/index.htm

4. Individuals under the age of 17 are not entitled to any alcohol or tobacco allowances.

5. Follow HMRC on Twitter @HMRCgovuk.

NAT 89/11

Issued by HM Revenue &amp; Customs Press Office
Press enquiries only please contact:


HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

Jan Marszewski
Phone: 020 7147 0798

HMRC Out of Hours
Phone: 07860 359544