If you order goods from abroad for your own personal use, including over the internet, or buy them abroad and send them to the UK, Customs Duty, Excise Duty and/or import VAT may be due.
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If you're ordering goods from abroad, or buying and sending to the UK goods from abroad for personal use, you may have to pay Customs Duty, Excise Duty or import VAT. What's due, if anything, depends on the type of goods and where they come from. See below for what applies in different circumstances.
Note that this guide only deals with goods bought for personal use. If you're buying goods for commercial purposes the rules are different. See link below.
It is the responsibility of the person that you're buying the goods from to ensure that UK Excise Duty is paid before they send you the goods. You should therefore expect the price you pay to reflect the payment of UK duty. If the price is very low, UK duty has probably not been paid.
If the person you're buying the goods from does not pay UK Excise Duty before they send them to you, the goods can be seized by customs on arrival in the UK and you may not be able to get a refund on their value. It's therefore a good idea to check with them whether Excise Duty has been paid.
In addition, cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco must bear UK health warnings and fiscal marks, and containers of spirits that are larger than 35cl must bear a UK duty stamp.
If you're ordering or sending purchased goods (other than alcohol and tobacco) to the UK from another EU country then it's just like shopping in the UK:
The EU 'Special Territories' are The Aland Islands (Finland), The Canary Islands (Spain), The Channel Islands (UK)*, The French Overseas Departments of Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique and Reunion and Mount Athos also known as Agion Poros (Greece).
*From 1 April 2012, all mail order goods sent to the UK from the Channel Islands is subject to VAT at import.
HM Revenue & Customs operates a scheme with the Channel Islands for the prepayment of import VAT, and all mail order businesses based in the Channel Islands are entitled to apply to join. Goods sent this way do not incur further customs charges in the UK, and do not incur the Royal Mail/Parcelforce handling fee.
If exporters choose not to send goods using this facility, they will be subject to the customs charging process in the UK, which will inevitably mean a longer processing time before they are delivered to the customer. Items sent outside this scheme will also be subject to the Royal Mail/Parcelforce handling fee.
If you're ordering or sending goods from a non-EU country to the UK, even as a gift, you may have to pay Customs Duty, Excise Duty and import VAT.
Please note that where the guidance below refers to 'purchased goods' it makes no difference if the goods are new or used, for example goods bought on an auction site. And it doesn't matter if you buy them for yourself or to sell on.
If you order or send purchased goods of alcohol or tobacco you have to pay:
Cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco must bear UK health warnings and fiscal marks and containers of spirits that are larger than 35cl must bear a UK duty stamp.
If you receive goods of perfume or toilet water as a gift from a country outside the EU then you:
If you order perfume or toilet water (as an example) over the internet from a country outside the EU then you:
If you order or send purchased goods other than alcohol, tobacco, perfume and toilet water from a country outside the EU then you:
Note that on all goods from outside the EU, Customs Duty is waived if the amount of duty calculated is £9 or under.
If you're sending or receiving a gift from outside the EU:
To qualify as a gift:
Ordering and paying for goods over the internet to be sent to someone other than you, doesn't count as a gift. The recipient will be liable to UK duty and tax.
If one package contains several gifts for different people, perhaps family members, then each gift can benefit from the Import VAT £36 gift allowance as long as it's individually:
If you're ordering or buying alcohol and/or tobacco from an EU country, Excise Duty must have been paid by the seller or sender before the goods are sent otherwise they can be seized by customs on arrival in the UK. Payment is made using the 'distance selling' procedures - see commercial importers and tax representatives: EU trade in duty-paid excise goods in Notice 204B.
If you're ordering or buying alcohol and/or tobacco from a non-EU country, Excise Duty must be paid by the recipient once the goods have arrived in the UK but before the goods are delivered.
If you're ordering or buying goods from outside the EU, any Customs Duty must be paid by the recipient once the goods have arrived in the UK but before the goods are delivered.
If you're ordering or buying goods from outside the EU, import VAT must be paid by the recipient once the goods have arrived in the UK but before the goods are delivered.
In addition, there may be a handling fee to pay to the carrier. Follow the link below to find out more.
There are certain goods that you are not allowed to send or have sent to the UK under any circumstances, and some goods are restricted. This is to protect the UK from crime, pests and diseases.
If you need more information about ordering or buying goods abroad to post to the UK, you can contact the VAT Helpline or the Customs, International Trade & Excise enquiries.