CUSTOM AND EXCISE DUTY FREE ALLOWANCE: There are rules for bringing goods into the United Kingdom.
Certain products are liable for tax and duty. It does not matter whether you are arriving from EU or non-EU country destinations.
Ignorance of the law is rarely a good enough defence. It is illegal to bring banned or restricted goods into the UK. Doing so can result in serious trouble with HM Revenue and Customs or the UK Border Force Agency.
There are some items that you can bring into Great Britain from abroad without having to pay any UK tax or ‘duty‘. The duty is often called customs charges. But, the ‘duty free‘ goods must be for your own personal use or consumption.
When you are travelling into the United Kingdom from:
- A European Union Country: The rules allow you to bring in an unlimited amount of most goods.
- A Non-European Union Country: There are restrictions and limits on the amounts you can bring into the UK. Going over those limits means paying duty or tax (up to your duty-free allowance).
What happens when you arrive at the UK border or point of entry? You must inform the customs officers about the goods you are bringing in. This means any items besides those you are usually allowed without restrictive limits.
At this point you should also tell them (declare) if you have any UK banned or restricted items. As a rule, any tax or duty that’s owed must get paid immediately at the Border Force department.
Note: Your goods and any vehicle you use to transport them may get seized if you break the rules. Doing so may also result in a fine or prosecution.
UK Arrivals from EU Countries
If you are bringing goods into the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU) you do not pay duty or tax on them providing you:
- Transport them yourself and will use or consume them yourself (or give them away as a gift).
- Have paid duty and tax on the goods in the country where you purchased them.
Note: Follow the rules for countries outside the European Union for the Canary Islands, the north of Cyprus, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands. This rule applies because those countries are not part of the EU for customs purposes.
Customs Stop and Check
Customs officers might consider that you may be bringing in goods to the UK for selling them, or using them for a commercial purpose. In this case, customs staff may stop you and conduct some checks. They may also ask about:
- The type and quantity of goods that you bought.
- Why you bought them and how you paid for them.
- How often you travel abroad.
- The quantity that you usually smoke or drink.
Officially, there are no maximum limits to the amount of duty free tobacco and alcohol that you can bring into the United Kingdom from EU countries.
But, you will get more attention from customs if you have more than the amounts below.
|Type of Goods (alcohol and tobacco)||Suggested Maximum Amount|
|Fortified Wine (e.g. port, sherry)||20 litres|
UK Arrivals from Outside EU
You have a duty-free allowance any time you bring goods into the United Kingdom from outside the European Union. Your individual allowance means you can transport a specified amount of goods without paying duty or tax.
If you are bringing in goods to the United Kingdom, the items must be for your own use, consumption, or to give away as a gift.
You are not allowed to combine the allowances with other people to increase the amount that you bring in to the country.
Note: You must declare any goods over your allowance because they could get seized if you fail to do so.
There are restrictions for bringing in alcohol. The amount of beer, wine, and spirits you can bring into the UK from outside the EU depends on the type of alcoholic drink. You can bring in 16 litres of beer and 4 litres of wine (not sparkling).
You can also bring either 1 litre of spirits (or other liquors) over 22% alcohol ‘or‘ 2 litres of fortified wine (e.g. port, sherry), sparkling wine and alcoholic drinks up to 22% alcohol.
You can split this last allowance. So, you could bring half a litre of spirits and 1 litre of fortified wine. That equates to half of your allowance for each item.
Duty Free Tobacco Allowance EU
Even though you can only bring in one from the following, you can split this allowance too. That means you could bring in 100 cigarettes and 25 cigars (both half of your allowance):
- 50 cigars
- 200 cigarettes
- 100 cigarillos
- 250 grams of smoking tobacco
Note: You may need to pay Excise Duty on alcohol that you declare at customs.
Alcohol and Tobacco Allowance for those Under 17
Duty-free allowances for tobacco or alcohol do not apply for those who are under 17 years old. They can bring alcohol and tobacco to the United Kingdom for their own use. But they would need to pay duty or tax on them at the customs department.
Allowance for Other Goods (electrical goods)
What if you are bringing electrical goods into the UK? You can bring in other goods worth up to £390. This applies to things like perfume or electrical goods (or up to £270 if you arrive by private plane or boat).
You pay any duty or tax on its full value if a single item is worth more than your allowance. It does not apply to the value above the allowance.
What Happens if you Go Over Your Allowance?
You will need to pay Customs Duty on any goods that you bring in above your allowance. The rate for customs duty is:
- 2.5% for goods worth up to £630.
- Varies for certain goods worth more than £630 (contact VAT, Customs and Excise Helpline).
- Illegal drugs or indecent and obscene materials.
- Offensive weapons (e.g. flick knives, swords).
- Firearms, explosives and ammunition (they require a special licence).
- Self-defence sprays such as pepper spray or CS gas.
- Endangered animal and plant species.
- Personal imports of meat and dairy products from most non-EU countries.
- Prosecution for those goods which infringe intellectual property rights (e.g. using somebody else’s intellectual property such as ‘pirated’ copies of music or movies).
- Uncut (rough) diamonds.
- They are not free from pests and diseases.
- The food or plant products are not for your own use.
- The products were not grown within the European Union.
- Over your duty-free allowance.
- Banned or restricted.
- Those that you plan to sell or use for commercial purposes.
- Bringing animals, food products, or plants into the United Kingdom.
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Note: You do not pay Customs Duty if the amount you owe is less than £9.
Paying Import VAT
In some cases you may need to pay standard rates of import VAT on the total value of the goods plus duty.
Banned or Restricted Goods UK
Apart from your individual allowances and duty-free allowances, some products and devices are prohibited from entering the United Kingdom. This rule applies no matter which country you are travelling from.
Customs staff at Border Force will seize any banned or restricted goods from entering into the United Kingdom. The list of banned and restricted goods includes:
Certain restrictions apply for bringing in food and plant products if:
Note: You can report someone for breaking the rules to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Declaring Cash In and Out of the UK
If you are carrying cash equivalent to 10,000 euros or more you must declare it when you enter the United Kingdom from a country outside the EU.
You can do this by completing a cash declaration form at the UK port or airport. The Isle of Man and Channel Islands do not count as being part of the UK for EU cash declaration purposes.
Besides fuel held in the standard tank of a vehicle, tourist travellers to the UK may carry reserve fuel for use in that vehicle in an appropriate canister.
Note: Ferry and train companies impose strict limits on the amount of fuel carried outside the fuel tank for safety reasons.
If you are transferring to another flight out to another EU country or a UK domestic flight, you will usually only need to declare the goods in your hand luggage. You normally do not need to declare your hold baggage until you collect it at your final destination.
Declaring Goods at UK Customs
You must inform customs, called ‘declaring‘, upon arriving in the United Kingdom if you have goods which are:
If you have something to declare you should use the red channel at customs. Use the red-point phone to declare goods to customs if there is no red channel.
Note: You and your baggage can get checked for anything that requires a declaration.
In some cases you could get asked to pay tax or duty on the goods you are bringing into the United Kingdom. You may also get asked to give up banned goods (hand over) or produce licence or permit documents for certain restricted goods.
Note: Failing to do what you are asked can result in the seizure of goods and any vehicle used to transport them.
Arriving in Great Britain: Help Guides
Note: The short video presented by HMRC explains some of the new rules being introduced for travellers who are carrying goods for personal use (e.g. alcohol, tobacco) into the United Kingdom.