Currently, there’s no limit to the amount of wine you can bring back to the UK from France and the EU, provided it’s for your own use and you travel with the goods. That way you save £2.50 a bottle in UK duty (of £2.08 plus VAT on the duty). If you bought the wine outside the EU, however, the limit is 4 litres, plus a whopping 2 litres of sparkling wine. If Britain leaves the EU, we’re struggling to see what incentive there is for the taxman to increase the non-EU allowance.
The Channel Islands, for example, are not treated as part of the EU for customs purposes today and non-EU limits apply already (see below).
Each country in the EU is free to impose its own rate of Excise Duty and Britain has one of the highest rates on wine.Here are the relevant pages from the Gov.uk website.
Bringing goods into the UK
You can bring some goods from abroad without having to pay UK tax or ‘duty’ (customs charges), as long as they’re for your own use.
If you’re coming:
- from a European Union (EU) country you can bring in an unlimited amount of most goods
- from outside the EU you can only bring in a certain amount without paying duty or tax – up to your duty-free allowance
You must tell customs about (‘declare’) any other goods when you arrive at the UK border, as well as anything that’s banned or restricted in the UK. If you owe any duty or tax, you’ll usually have to pay it immediately.
Your goods and any vehicle you use to transport them may be seized if you break the rules. You may also be fined or prosecuted.
You can report someone for breaking the rules to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
You don’t pay duty or tax on goods you bring in from the European Union (EU) as long as you:
- transport them yourself
- will use them yourself or give them away as a gift
- have paid duty and tax in the country where you bought them
The Canary Islands, the north of Cyprus, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands are not part of the EU for customs purposes – follow the rules for countries outside the EU instead.
If a customs officer thinks you may be bringing in goods to sell, they may stop you to make checks and ask:
- the type and quantity of goods you’ve bought
- why you bought them
- how you paid for them
- how often you travel
- how much you normally smoke or drink
Although there are no limits to the alcohol and tobacco you can bring in from EU countries, you’re more likely to be asked questions if you have more than the amounts below.
Wine: 90 litres, etc.
Your duty-free allowance means you can bring in a certain amount of goods for your own use from outside the European Union (EU) without paying duty or tax.
When you’re bringing in goods you must:
- transport them yourself
- use them yourself or give them away as a gift
You can’t combine allowances with other people to bring in more than your individual allowance.
Declare any goods over your allowance. Your goods could be seized if you don’t declare them.
How much you can bring depends on the type of drink. You can bring in:
- beer – 16 litres
- wine (not sparkling) – 4 litres
You can also bring in either:
- spirits and other liquors over 22% alcohol – 1 litre
- fortified wine (eg port, sherry), sparkling wine and alcoholic drinks up to 22% alcohol – 2 litres
You may have to pay Excise Duty on alcohol you declare.
You may have to pay import VAT on the total value of the goods plus duty. The VAT rates are the standard UK rates. (20%.)