Bringing merchandise to the UK in your baggage

What you need to do when importing merchandise to the UK in your baggage.

Merchandise in baggage are commercial goods (for trade or business use) where:

  • a commercial transport operator does not carry them for you
  • you’ve travelled to the UK carrying goods in your baggage

You can bring goods to the UK in your baggage but you will need to make a declaration.

Ways to declare

There is a different way to declare merchandise in your baggage if you’re taking goods out of the UK.

Before you start

You will need:

  • an EORI number that starts with GB at least 48 hours before travelling if your business does not have one already
  • to work out the weight and value of your goods
  • to check whether your goods are restricted goods
  • to check whether your goods are alcohol, tobacco or fuel
  • to obtain any licences or documents needed for importing
  • if you’re making your own full declaration, software that works with CHIEF

When to make a declaration

Goods you must declare in advance

You or your appointed customs agent must submit a full declaration before you travel to the UK if your goods are coming from outside the EU and are any of the following:

You may submit your declaration no more than 5 days before you travel to the UK.

Arriving with goods that have not been declared in advance

If you arrive in the UK with goods that you have not declared in advance, you must go to the ‘Goods to Declare’ channel or the red point phone in the customs area. You must make a declaration and pay any duties and tax due to a Border Force officer.

Getting duty and VAT refunds

You may be able to ask for a refund after you’ve made your declaration if:

  • you do not travel
  • your goods are lost or destroyed before they reach the UK
  • you make a mistake when you work out your duty

To get a refund, you must apply within:

  • 3 years of making the over payment of Customs Duty or import VAT
  • 12 months for duty you’ve paid on damaged or defective goods
  • 3 years if after making a declaration you did not actually travel

Find out how to claim a refund for Customs Duty and also use this process to claim back your import VAT if you’re not registered for VAT.

If you’re VAT registered, you must claim import VAT back on your VAT Return.

From 1 January 2021

The value of goods requiring a customs declaration will go up to £900.

Published 15 October 2019