Boost for duty-free shoppers

6 January 2010

Holidaymakers and online shoppers will now be able to buy more from stores in non-EU countries before being hit with duty charges.

New rules introduced on 1 January, mean the value of goods people can personally bring into the UK from a non-EU country, or receive through the post without needing to pay customs duty, has increased.

Items bought online or by mail order from outside the EU will be charged customs duty if the value is above £135, up from the previous threshold of £120. 

Meanwhile, people arriving in the UK by commercial flights or sea travel from a non-EU country can now bring in up to £390 worth of goods for personal use without having to pay customs duty or VAT. This is up from £340, but does not include tobacco, alcohol or fuel.

People arriving by private plane or boat can bring in goods up to the value of £270. The previous limit was £240.

The new rules also mean smokers can bring in as many cigarettes as they like for personal use from Bulgaria, Romania. Lithuania and Estonia.

Import VAT is, however, still due on packages valued at over £18.

Duty-free limits for imports of alcohol and tobacco products from outside the EU have not changed. These are as follows:

Alcohol allowance

1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22% volume

2 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), sparkling wine or any other alcoholic drink that's less than 22% volume
Plus: 16 litres of beer
4 litres of still wine
Source: HMRC

You can combine the first two allowances; for example, if you bring in one litre of fortified wine, you can also bring in half a litre of spirits.

Tobacco allowances
One of the following: 200 cigarettes
100 cigarillos
50 cigars
250g of tobacco

Again, these allowances can be combined. For example, if you bring in 100 cigarettes, you can also bring in 25 cigars.

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