Import alcohol into the UK

Find out how you can import alcohol into the UK and the duty and VAT you need to pay for each method.

There are a number of ways you can import alcohol or alcoholic drinks into the UK. The right method for you will depend on whether you are based in Great Britain or Northern Ireland and:

  • how frequently you’ll be importing

  • whether you’re importing from countries inside or outside the EU

  • whether Excise Duty has already been paid on the goods in an EU country

The method you choose will impact how you account for and pay UK Excise Duty.

UK duty stamps

If you import alcohol into the UK, you should be aware of the legal requirements for duty stamps on specific alcohol products. These are also known as fiscal markings.

Importing alcohol into Northern Ireland from the EU

This section only applies to Northern Ireland, not all of the UK.

Occasional imports of alcohol in duty suspension from EU countries

If you import alcohol in duty suspension from EU countries infrequently, you can apply to HMRC to become a Temporary Registered Consignee.

Before the goods are dispatched, you’ll have to pay duty on each consignment to HMRC.

Regular imports of alcohol in duty suspension from EU countries

If you regularly import alcohol in duty suspension from EU countries, you can use one of 3 methods:

  • apply for approval as a registered consignee

  • use the services of a registered consignee who will import it for you
  • use the services of an authorised warehousekeeper who receives the alcohol for you and stores it in duty suspension in an approved excise warehouse

If you use the services of an authorised warehousekeeper you must apply for approval as a registered owner unless you’re only importing wine.

As a registered consignee, you’re not allowed to hold or dispatch excise goods in duty suspension. You must account for the duty due as soon as the goods are received in the UK, and then pay the duty under deferment arrangements.

Duty-paid alcohol

If alcohol has been released for consumption in an EU country it’s classed as duty paid. To import it into Northern Ireland on a commercial basis, you can use any of the schemes below:

  • the registered commercial importer scheme - by registering with HMRC the UK duty due on your goods is secured and then paid under deferment arrangements

  • the standard duty-paid scheme - you don’t need to be registered as you pay HMRC the duty before the goods are dispatched

Read more about importer schemes.

Importing alcohol into the UK

If you want to import alcohol, it becomes liable for UK Excise Duty when it arrives in the UK.

You will not need to pay Excise Duty at that point if one of these applies:

  • it’s delivered to an excise warehouse approved for that purpose

  • it’s delivered to a customs warehouse which also has a separate excise warehouse approval for those premises

  • you’re a registered brewer and you receive alcohol into your registered premises of a class that your registration entitles you to hold

Read more on importing excise goods from outside the EU.

Customs Duty and VAT

For any alcohol brought into the UK, you’ll also have to follow procedures regarding the payment of Customs Duty and VAT.

If you sell alcohol to another business

You may need to apply for approval for the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS). If you intend to start wholesaling alcohol in the UK, you must apply for approval at least 45 days before you intend to trade.

Published 9 November 2009
Last updated 26 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. This guidance has changed because the Brexit transition period is over.

  2. First published.