Duty Free: What You Need To Know

One of the highlights of a holiday abroad is the opportunity to stock up on items such as cigarettes, alcohol and perfume - collectively known as "duty free" goods. Duty free items have no state, local or provincial taxes, federal import duties, or any other type of taxation added to the cost of the item that you are buying - which makes them cheaper. Sometimes certain items can be considerably cheaper and we can be tempted to stock up but there are restrictions in place governing just how many duty free items we can bring back from our holidays.

Travelling back from outside the EU

When travelling from a non-EU country (including the Canary Islands, the Channel islands and Gibraltar) you can bring the following into the UK for your own use without paying UK tax or duty:

- 200 cigarettes; or 100 cigarillos; or 50 cigars; or 250g of tobacco
- 60cc of perfume
- 2 litres of still table wine
- 250cc of eau de toilette
- 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22 per cent volume; or 2 litres of fortified wine, sparkling wine or other liqueurs *such as port or sherry and
- 145 pounds worth of all other goods including gifts and souvenirs

If you have any more than these allowances you must declare the goods in the red channel or use the red point phone on your return to the UK. If you do not, you are breaking the law and you may be prosecuted.

In addition:

- If you are under 17 you cannot have the tobacco and alcohol allowances
- You are entitled to these allowances only if you travel with the goods and do not sell them
- If you bring in something worth more than the limit of 145 pounds, you must pay charges on the full value, not just the value above 145 pounds
- You and anyone you are travelling with cannot pool your individual allowances to bring in an item worth more than the limit. You will have to pay charges on the full value of the item
- If you are bringing back any duty-free or tax-free goods you bought when you left the UK, these count as part of your allowance

Travelling back from inside the EU

If you bring in goods on which tax has been paid in an EU country, you do not have to pay any tax or duty on them in the UK. However any alcohol or tobacco you bring in must be for your own use and transported by you.

Own use includes goods for your own consumption and gifts. If you bring in goods for resale, or for any payment, even payment kind, they are regarded as being for a commercial purpose.

The EU Countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, The Irish Republic, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (but not the Canary Islands), Sweden, The UK (but not the Channel Islands).

Though the whole of Cyprus is part of the EU, goods from any area of Cyprus not under effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus are treated as non-EU imports.

Although Gibraltar is part of the EU, it is outside the Community Customs territory. The Customs allowances for outside the EU therefore apply.

There are special rules for cigarettes and some tobacco products from some EU countries. If you are bringing in alcohol or tobacco goods and Customs officers have reason to suspect they may be for a commercial purpose, a Customs officer may ask you questions and make checks, for example about:

- the type and quantity of goods you have bought
- why you bought them
- how you paid for them
- whether all your goods are openly displayed or concealed
- how often you travel
- how much you normally smoke or drink or
- any other relevant circumstances

You are particularly likely to be asked questions if you have more than:

- 3200 cigarettes
- 200 cigars
- 400 cigarillos
- 3kg tobacco
- 110 litres of beer
- 90 litres of wine
- 10 litres of spirits
- 20 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry)

The officer will take into account all the factors of the situation and your explanation.

If they are satisfied that the goods are for a commercial purpose they may seize them and any vehicle used to transport them, and may not return them to you.

If you are caught selling alcohol or tobacco goods they may be seized, and for a serious offence you could get up to seven years in prison.

The country where you buy tobacco goods may have its own laws on how much you can buy or have in your possession, and what documents you need. If in doubt, check with that country's authorities before you buy.

If you let a coach, ferry or aircraft store your goods while travelling back to the UK you must make sure when you arrive in the UK that you collect the exact goods you bought.

From some EU countries there are limits on the amount of tobacco products you can bring back without paying UK duty.

From CZECH REPUBLIC - 200 cigarettes or 250g of smoking tobacco or 50 cigars or 100 cigarillos

From ESTONIA - 200 cigarettes or 250g of smoking tobacco*


*No limit on other tobacco products as long as they are for your own use.

If you have tobacco products over these limits you should speak to a Customs officer in the red channel or on the red point phone.
Top Searches on
Travel and Leisure

» More on Travel and Leisure