Customs Duty, Excise Duty and import VAT: introduction

If you're bringing goods for personal use into the UK, or sending or ordering them from abroad, including over the internet, you may need to pay UK Customs Duty, Excise Duty and/or import VAT. What you pay and how much depends on the type of goods and where they come from.

On this page:

Customs Duty

Customs Duty is a tax charged on importation of goods produced outside the European Union (EU). You won't have to pay Customs Duty if you're travelling from the EU, or buying, ordering or sending goods to the UK from the EU for your own use. Follow the link below for a list of countries in the EU.

Read about which countries are in the EU in Notice 143 - A guide for international post users

Customs Duty allowances

Customs Duty is only payable on goods from outside the EU over a certain value. This value depends on whether you're bringing the goods in yourself, or they're being sent by post.

If you're a traveller arriving in the UK from outside the EU, you only have to pay Customs Duty if you exceed your duty-free allowance.

If you're posting goods to the UK, or ordering them from a non-EU country, you only have to pay Customs Duty above a certain value.

Custom Duty rates for specific products

Customs Duty is charged as a percentage of the total value of the goods - that is the sterling equivalent of the price paid abroad.

To work out the percentage, each type of product is given a 'commodity code'. This tells you what the Customs Duty rate percentage is for that particular product, based on whether it's being imported or exported.

There are around 14,000 different classifications. The duty rate percentage for each may vary according to the country the goods come from. The average percentage is between 5% and 9%, but it can be as low as 0% or as high as 85%.

To find out the Customs Duty rate for a product you can contact HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) VAT Helpline or the Customs, International Trade & Excise enquiries.

Customs Duty in different situations

You can find out more about how Customs Duty and other taxes, duties or restrictions apply in the guides on bringing or sending goods to the UK under 'More useful links'.

Top

Excise Duty

Excise Duty is a tax on certain goods such as alcohol and tobacco. When you buy excise goods in the UK the price you pay includes this tax.

Excise Duty allowances

Travellers bringing excise goods into the UK from another EU Member State for their own use do not have to pay UK Excise Duty, provided that the goods were bought duty paid in the other Member State, for example from a supermarket or cash and carry.

If you are a traveller bringing excise goods into the UK from outside the EU for your own use, you only have to pay Excise Duty on them if you exceed your duty - free allowance.

If alcohol or tobacco products are sent to the UK through the post, for example internet purchases or gifts from family and/or friends, Excise Duty is payable on the whole amount.

These rules are different if you're bringing in excise goods for commercial use. For more information, see the link below.

Importing excise goods for commercial use on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

Excise Duty rates on alcohol and tobacco

The rate of Excise Duty payable on alcohol products like spirits, wines and beers is based on their alcohol content and volume. In the case of wine and cider the rate also depends on whether they're still or sparkling.

The rate of Excise Duty payable on cigarettes is based on a percentage of the retail price, plus a flat rate amount per 1,000 cigarettes. For other tobacco products like cigars and hand rolling tobacco, Excise Duty is charged at a flat rate per kilogram.

You can check the current alcohol and Tobacco Duty rates here.

Alcohol Duty rates

Tobacco Duty rates

Excise Duty in different situations

You can find out more about how Excise Duty and other taxes, duties or restrictions apply in the guides on bringing or sending goods to the UK under 'More useful links'.

Top

Import VAT

VAT is a tax normally charged on the supply of goods (and services) made by a VAT - registered business in the UK. For goods brought in or sent to the UK from the EU there's no extra VAT to pay unless you're ordering or sending purchased goods from one of the EU Special Territories, such as Jersey or Guernsey, in which case you'll have to pay import VAT.

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 Oros (Greece).

Goods imported to the UK from outside the EU are subject to import VAT, unless they are brought in as part of your duty free allowances.

Import VAT rate

The percentage charged is the same VAT rate that applies to similar goods that are sold in the UK.

The import VAT percentage rate is applied to the total value of the goods. In the case of goods brought in this is the sterling equivalent of the price paid abroad, as shown on the receipt. In the case of goods posted from outside the EU, it is the amount on the Customs Declaration, which includes the price paid for the goods, the cost of transport, postage and packing, insurance and any duty that may be payable.

Introduction to VAT

Import VAT allowances

If you're posting goods to the UK, or ordering them from a non-EU country, you, or the importer only have to pay import VAT above a certain value - however please note that from 1 April 2012 all merchandise sent to the UK from the Channel Islands is subject to import VAT. The import VAT relief value is different if you're posting a gift.

Import VAT in different situations

You can find out more about how import VAT and other taxes, duties or restrictions apply in the guides on bringing or sending goods to the UK under 'More useful links'.

Top

Getting more help and advice

If you need more information about Customs Duty, Excise Duty and import VAT, you can contact the VAT Helpline or the Customs, International Trade & Excise enquiries.

Contact details for the VAT Helpline

Contact details for the Customs, International Trade & Excise enquiries

Top

More useful links

Tax and duty on goods brought to the UK from the EU

Tax and duty on goods brought to the UK from outside the EU

Tax when ordering or sending goods from abroad

Top