Make sure you know your duty free allowances.
Various limits apply to the duty-free and tax-free goods you can buy abroad and then bring back into the UK.
Cigarettes, tobacco and selected spirits are classified as duty-free items, while other goods – including jewellery, fragrances, cosmetics, fashion items and accessories, electrical goods, cameras and souvenirs – are now classified as “tax-free” goods.
The limits depend on whether you’re bringing goods back from EU countries or from outside the EU.
Limits when you’re returning from an EU countryIf you’re returning from an EU country, you can bring in an unlimited amount of most goods without paying tax or duties on them, provided they’re for your own use rather than for resale and you personally transport them. The goods can be gifts, but not if they’re given as reimbursement for expenses or in lieu of other payment.
There aren’t any specific restrictions on the quantity of alcohol or tobacco you can bring into the UK from an EU member country. However, you’re not allowed to bring in excise goods for commercial resale. In practice, UK customs officials are likely to suspect you of trying to do this if you attempt to return with more than:
- 800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars or 1 kilogram of smoking tobacco
- 110 litres of beer or 90 litres of wine
- 10 litres of spirits or 20 litres of fortified wine, such as port or sherry
If you’re suspected of bringing in excise goods for commercial use, you may be questioned about the type and quantity of the goods you’ve bought, why they were purchased, how you paid for them, how much you smoke and drink and how often you travel. Goods may be confiscated if you’re suspected of violating the regulations.
Limits when you’re returning from a non-EU countryRestrictions apply to the quantities of duty-free and tax-free goods you can bring into the UK when returning from a country outside the EU.
Alcohol allowanceWhen returning from a non-EU member country, you may bring in up to:
- 4 litres of still wine
- 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22% volume or 2 litres of fortified wine, sparkling wine, or liqueur with less than 22% volume
- 16 litres of beer
Tobacco allowanceYou may bring in 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars, 250 grams of tobacco or any proportional combination – for example, 100 cigarettes and 125 grams of tobacco.
Other item allowancesIf you return to the UK via commercial plane or boat, you may bring in other tax-free goods up to the value of £390, without having to pay tax or duties on them. This includes items such as perfume and souvenirs. If you arrive by private plane or boat, you may bring in other goods to the value of only £270.
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