Returning to the UK – know your customs limits

The pound to the dollar rate is working in our favour, slightly, for the first time in a while and its the time of year when the tech giants release their new devices – it is better to be prepared when it comes to knowing your customs limits when you return to the UK.  Apple just launched their new iPhone to name but one and Amazon and other providers will surely launch some products in the lead up to Black Friday.


The price variation can be massive around the world, particularly when in the US products typically sell for the same amount there in dollars as we pay in pounds.  It is tempting to head on a cheap flight to the states and purchase the items there and bring back. It is worth remembering that if you intend to do this that you must make sure the device will work as you expect in the UK. For example, you have suitable power connectors, it isnt locked to a mobile network abroad etc.


Aside from that you then need to be aware of your duty-free allowance when returning to the UK.  The rules state that you can bring a certain amount of goods for your own use from outside of the European Union into the UK without paying duty or tax.


You must be:

  • Intending to use them yourself or give away as a gift and not receive any payment for them
  • Transport them yourself


You cannot combine allowances within a group of travellers in your party and the limits are as follows:


Alcohol allowance – for 17 year olds and over

  • Beer – 16 litres
  • Wine (not sparkling) – 4 litres
    • Then either
      • 1 litre of spirits or other liquors over 22% alcohol
      • 2 litres of fortified wine (e.g. port, sherry), sparking wine and other alcoholic drinks up to 22% alcohol


Tobacco allowance – for 17 year olds and over

  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 250g tobacco


Other goods

  • Goods up to the value of £390 (or up to £270 if you arrive by private plane or boat).
  • If a single item is worth more than your allowance you pay any duty or tax on its full value, not just the value above the allowance.


If you go over your allowance

  • You pay Customs Duty on anything you bring in above your allowance. The rate  is 2.5% for goods worth up to £630
    depends on the type of goods if they’re worth more than £630

You can check any of this or get advice by calling the VAT, Customs and Excise Helpline.

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