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Tax when bringing in goods from abroad  

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If you are travelling to the UK from abroad, the quantities of certain goods you can bring into the country and the duties and tax you may need to pay depends on where you bought the goods and what they are. Certain goods are banned altogether.

The different types of duty or tax

When bringing goods from another country the following duties and taxes may apply:

* Customs Duty (paid when goods cross international borders, but doesn't apply where they move within a customs union like the European Union)
* Excise Duty (payable on certain goods such as tobacco and alcohol)
* VAT (Value Added Tax)

Banned or restricted goods

There are certain goods, such as ivory, that you cannot bring into the UK under any circumstances. Certain other goods carry restrictions.

Goods bought in the European Union (EU)
Excise Duty

You don't have to pay UK Excise Duty on excise goods (for example alcohol and tobacco) provided all of the following apply:

* the goods are Excise Duty and VAT paid in the EU State where you got them
* the goods are for your 'own use': includes goods for your own consumption, and gifts for other people - doesn't apply where you have received or will receive payment for them (for example, where you obtain goods for a friend who will give you the cost price for them)
* tobacco products from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia or Slovenia are within the current limits for these countries

If you are carrying more than the tobacco limits for the above countries you must pay UK Excise Duty on those goods. You do this by entering the customs red channel or by using the red point telephone. If you enter the customs blue or green channels with more than the limits, all of your tobacco may be seized.
Tobacco and alcohol - customs questions and checks

If you are bringing in alcohol or tobacco goods (irrespective of the quantity) and HMRC has reason to suspect they may be for a commercial purpose, a Customs Officer may stop you and ask you questions and make checks.

HMRC has the right to seize the goods, along with the vehicle used to transport them, if they have evidence they are for a commercial purpose.

Excise goods intended for commercial purposes

If you intend bringing back excise goods for a commercial purpose you must either arrange to pay the necessary Excise Duty before bringing the goods to the UK, or make special arrangements for the goods to be brought back using commercial documentation and placed into an approved warehouse.

For information on how to do this, contact HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) National Advice Service on 0845 010 9000. Lines are open 8.00 am to 8.00 pm Monday to Friday.

No VAT is payable on goods brought back from the EU - but VAT must be included in the price you paid for the goods in the EU member state country (including excise goods). If it hasn't been paid and you are stopped at customs the goods are likely to be seized.

Bringing goods into the UK from outside the EU
Tobacco, alcohol and perfume

When travelling from a non-EU country (including the Canary Islands, the Channel islands and Gibraltar) there are restrictions on the amount of tobacco, alcohol and perfume you can bring into the UK for your own use without paying UK Customs Duty, Excise Duty or VAT.

If you have perfume or eau de toilette above the allowances, you'll have to pay Customs duty and VAT on the excess. See the section below: 'How much Customs Duty and VAT do you have to pay?'
Other items, including gifts and souvenirs

You can also bring in other goods worth up to £145 without paying any Customs Duty and VAT.

If you bring in goods worth more than £145, you must pay Customs Duty and VAT on the full value of the item or items that take you over that threshold. If you have several items that add up to more than £145 you should declare all of them. You can then choose which ones to pay duty on to minimise the cost. (The Customs Officer will normally be able to help you work this out.)
How much Customs Duty and VAT do you pay?

The actual amount of Customs Duty and VAT payable varies according to where you are coming from and the items you wish to bring in.

To get an idea of how much you may need to pay you can contact HM Revenue & Customs' National Advice Service on 0845 010 9000 or +44 (0) 208 929 0152 if you're calling from abroad. Lines are open from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm Monday to Friday. But bear in mind that the actual amount you will need to pay can only be determined when you present the goods at customs.

How to declare goods

If you have goods to declare, or are unsure of what you should declare, you should go through the red channel or use the red point phone when you arrive at UK Customs. You should tell the Customs Officer everything that you are bringing into the country. The Customs Officer may ask to look inside your luggage.

The Customs Officer will work out any duties and VAT due and tell you how much to pay. They will give you a receipt which you should keep as proof of payment.
If you have nothing to declare

In this case pass through the green channel after collecting your baggage. But bear in mind that Customs carry out checks on travellers in the green channel and there are penalties for failing to declare goods. This can include seizure of the goods and any vehicle used to transport them.


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