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A return to Duty-free shopping post Brexit!

A return to Duty-free shopping post Brexit!

Andrew Coldwell

The New Limits

Following the cessation of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, the appeal of alcohol stocking holidays has dropped. There is no longer the option to fill up trailers and car boots with countless bottles of wine and champagne and openly transport them through customs with a wide grin.

The new worldwide duty-free limits per person for alcohol brought into Great Britain are:
  • Beer – 42 Litres
  • Still Wine – 18 Litres
  • Spirits or Sparkling Wine – 4 Litres
The biggest change since the New Year is that if you exceed the duty-free limit then you will lose the allowance on the duty-free items. This means that if you go over the limit, you will then be taxed on all items, not just the item that sent you over the limit. An example of this is would be if you tried to bring back 5 litres of prosecco (who wouldn’t?), you would be taxed on the 5 litres, not just the 1 that is over the limit.

The easiest way to declare and pay tax and duty to UK customs is the online service. You can do this from five days (120 hours) before you are due to arrive in the UK. The online service is for personal goods only, meaning there is a total threshold for what you can bring. You can find the thresholds below. If you want to bring in more, you will have to visit the customs office on your departure to declare and pay in person.

Alcoholic beverages and alcohol Upper threshold
Beer 110 litres
Still wine 90 litres
Sparkling wine 60 litres
Cider 20 litres
Sparkling cider of an alcoholic strength not exceeding 5.5% by volume 20 litres
Sparkling cider of an alcoholic strength exceeding 5.5% but less than 8.5% by volume 20 litres
Made-wine 20 litres
Spirits 10 litres

The online service will require lots of finicky details so make sure you are prepared with all the details stated below before you start the declaration process.
  • The exact price of your goods in the currency you used to pay for them. When you enter the value of your goods in a foreign currency, the online service calculates the tax and duty owed using HMRC’s exchange rates for customs and VAT. The calculation uses the rates that apply at the time you make your declaration.
  • The quantity and volume of your goods. E.g. 10 bottles of still wine containing 10 litres
  • The country where your goods were made or produced if you are travelling from the EU.
  • Your passport number or EU identity card number. For travel between England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland you can use your driving licence or phone number. 
  • The date and time of your arrival.
  • A credit or debit card if you need to pay tax or duty.
Please be aware that if you are using the online service to declare the goods you are bringing over, you will be choosing to calculate the amount of customs and excise duty you owe using the HMRC calculation NOT the customs tariff rates and main alcohol and tobacco duty rates. There could be potential for final numbers to end up different in the two methods. If you think that using the online service does not give you the best outcome for the goods you are declaring then you can make an oral declaration to Border Force when you arrive back into the UK.

If using the oral declaration method, then they will apply to all the goods you are declaring.

In most cases, the goods will have incurred the foreign jurisdiction’s equivalent of VAT at the point of purchase. The UK VAT added to your tax bill is based on the gross cost.

Since 1st January 2021, residents of England, Scotland and Wales shopping in the EU (or Northern Ireland) are eligible to shop tax-free on certain goods as a private consumer. For more information on this click here.

If you require more information or advice please contact your local Moore (South) adviser.