Rules on overseas shopping tax changedHMRC increases personal allowances

06 January 2010

The value of goods that travellers can personally bring into the UK from a non-EU country, or receive through the post without needing to pay customs duty, has increased.

The new limits set by HM Revenue and Customs came into effect on 1 January, and mean that holidaymakers returning home with souvenirs or shoppers buying items from foreign websites can bring in more expensive goods to the UK without being taxed.

Tax and VAT rules on bringing goods into the UK

Travellers arriving in the UK by commercial sea or air transport from a non-EU country can now bring in up to £390 worth of goods for personal use – up from the previous £340 limit. This allowance excludes tobacco and alcohol, which have separate allowances, and fuel.

Anyone arriving in the UK by other means, such as by private plane, can bring in goods up to the value of £270 tax-free.

Tax and VAT rules on online shopping overseas

Individuals who buy goods over the internet or by mail order from outside the EU will now only be charged customs duty if the value of their package is above £135 and the actual amount of duty due is £9 or more. Up until January 1, the limit was £120.

However, import VAT is still due on packages worth more than £18 unless the item is being received as a gift. In this instance, VAT will only be charged if its value exceeds £40.

Bringing tobacco products to the UK

Restrictions that remained in place on bringing tobacco products into the UK from Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania and Estonia have now been lifted.

Private individuals travelling from these states can now bring back unlimited amounts of these goods for their own personal use, bringing the rules into line with those related to other EU countries.

More information on UK tax

To find out more about UK tax allowances and how they affect you, take a look at our online guides. Which? offers advice on tax rates, allowances and amounts, a 2008/2009 tax calculator, information on how savings and investments are taxed plus tips on how to fill in a tax return.

You can also find out more about different types of taxes, including income tax, National Insurance and Capital Gains Tax on our website.

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