1. Overview

When you travel to the UK from abroad, you can bring in goods without having to pay UK duty or tax, as long as they are for your own use.

The amount of goods you can bring in depends on where you’re travelling from:

  • if you’re coming from a country in the European Union (EU), you can bring in an unlimited amount of most goods for your own use without paying tax or duty
  • if you’re coming from outside the EU you can only bring in a certain amount without paying - this is your duty-free allowance

The channels to use at customs are:

  • blue - you arrive from the EU and have nothing to declare
  • green - you arrive from outside the EU and have nothing to declare
  • red - you have something to declare

Types of tax and duty

If you go over the amount you’re allowed to bring in tax-free, there are 3 types of tax or duty you might have to pay.

Excise Duty

You pay this on goods like alcohol and tobacco, and:

  • when you buy these in the UK, it’s included in the price
  • if you’re travelling to the UK from another EU country, you don’t have to pay it
  • if you’re travelling from outside the EU, you only pay if you go over your duty-free allowance

Customs Duty

You pay this on goods imported from outside the EU and:

  • you don’t have to pay it if you’re travelling from the EU
  • if you’re travelling from outside the EU, you only have to pay it if you go over your duty-free allowance

Import VAT

If you’re bringing goods into the UK from the EU there’s no extra VAT to pay. If you’re bringing goods to the UK from a non-EU country you have to pay Import VAT if you go over your allowance.

Items you owned in the UK

Unless they’re ‘excise goods’, you won’t have to pay Customs Duty or Import VAT if you’re abroad and send back personal belongings you originally owned in the UK.

Excise goods include alcohol and tobacco. You must pay Excise Duty on them if you originally owned them in the UK, whether you send them from a European Union (EU) country or not.

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