Import VAT and Customs Duty on gifts

Find out about Import VAT and Customs Duty when you send gifts into the UK.

If you’re exporting goods you can read guidance on sending post or a parcel abroad.

When you send gifts to someone in the UK you may need to pay Import VAT and Customs Duty depending on the value of the items.

For goods to qualify as a gift the:

  • customs declaration must be complete
  • gift must be sent from a private person outside the UK to a private person or people in the UK
  • gift has not been paid for either directly or indirectly by anyone in the UK
  • gift is of an occasional nature only, for example, for a birthday, Christmas or anniversary

Gifts over £39 are liable to Import VAT. Customs Duty also becomes payable if the value of the goods is over £135.

If you purchase something from outside of the UK to give as a gift to a relative or friend, whether or not it is addressed to that person, it will not be treated as a gift.

If the goods you’re sending are not gifts you can find more information on Tax and customs for goods sent from abroad.

Gifts of alcohol and tobacco products

Gifts of alcohol and tobacco products, with a value not exceeding £39, qualify for relief from import duties and Import VAT. Relief from Import Duty will only apply up to the following quantities:

Tobacco products Quantity
cigarettes 50
cigarillos (cigars with a maximum weight each of 3 grams) 25
cigars 10
smoking tobacco 50 grams
Alcohol and alcoholic beverages Quantity
distilled beverages and spirits of an alcoholic strength exceeding 22% by volume, undenatured ethyl alcohol of 80% by volume and over 1 litre
distilled beverages and spirits, and aperitifs with a wine or alcohol base, tafia, saké or similar beverages of an alcoholic strength of 22% by volume or less, sparkling wines and fortified wines 1 litre
still wines 2 litres

If the limits are exceeded, customs duty will be applied to the balance and the consignment will not benefit from any relief of Import VAT.

Excise Duty is payable on all alcohol and tobacco products, even if they are a gift.

Undenatured ethyl alcohol and alcoholic beverages containing more than 24% alcohol by volume (abv) are prohibited in international mail.

Gifts of perfumes and toilet waters

Customs Duty and Excise Duty are not chargeable on gifts of perfumes and toilet waters. Import VAT is chargeable if the following allowances detailed are exceeded, or the goods value exceeds £39.

Item Quantity
Perfumes 50 grams of perfume
Toilet waters 0.25 litres of toilet water

Perfumes with a flashpoint of less than 60°C are banned from international mail.

Multi-gift packages

Multi-gift packages containing more than one gift and clearly intended for several people, the £39 VAT relief applies to each individual person, provided the goods are:

  • individually wrapped
  • specifically addressed to them
  • declared separately on the customs declaration
  • within the allowances specified
  • marked with the price for each individual item on the declaration

If more than one individual package is addressed to a particular person, the value of the goods will be added together. If the total value then exceeds £39, Import VAT will be charged. If the value exceeds £135, Customs Duty may also be due.

If a package contains several different types of goods intended for more than one person, these should be separately described and given a value on the customs declaration.

For Import VAT, only as many items that add up to the value of the Import VAT threshold of £39 will be granted relief. For example, if a package contains 5 items each with a value of £8, 4 of the 5 items will be entitled to relief (4 × £8 = £32). Charges will be payable on the fifth item.

When one item is sent to 2 people and its value exceeds £39, it’s not possible to aggregate each person’s gift relief. The value of an individual item itself cannot be divided. For example, one item with a value of £50 sent to 2 individuals cannot benefit from the gift relief.

Querying charges

If you have any questions about a particular customs charge you should contact Border Force as soon as possible using form BOR286.

In the event of a claim, you should retain copies of all wrappings and documents until your claim is settled.

Updates to this page

Published 1 August 2022

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