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UK duty free rules post Brexit


There are new rules in Great Britain (i.e. England, Wales, and Scotland only) for duty free shopping after Brexit. There are no changes in Northern Ireland, hence, Belfast airport duty free stores are operating as normal, learn more here about shopping tax-free in Northern Ireland.

No more duty free Heathrow prices

London Heathrow duty free, or any other UK airport, do not sell products without tax any longer. You might still spot the old store fronts but they will be selling at full prices just as all the high street retailers so don't be tricked by special offers or cut price labels.

However, you can benefit from duty free shopping on arrival at European airports as you set off on your next holiday, or can pick up a few bargains on the way back to the UK.

What can you bring into the UK from the EU

You can bring most goods into the UK from the EU, excluding any illegal or restricted items. Most common duty free items tend to be small enough to fit in the suitcase and valuable enough to justify carrying them from Europe for the sake of tax savings. Typically this would include alcohol, cigarettes, cosmetics, perfumes, watches, portable gadgets and designer labels.

You can also bring edible gifts, such as cakes and chocolates. Although basic food products sold in a typical supermarket, e.g. meat and cheese, would usually have a reduced or no tax at all anyway so there might be less tax advantage of purchasing them abroad in person.

Duty free allowance after Brexit

To answer a common question of “how much alcohol can I bring back from france after brexit”, the new duty free limits after brexit for Brits bringing bottles back home are:

UK’s duty-free allowance for alcohol after Brexit

UK’s duty-free allowance for tobacco and cigarettes after Brexit

You can bring in other duty free goods, such as perfumes, cosmetics, and electronics, up to the total value of £390. Also the same limit applies to any tax-free shopping items purchased during your overseas trip and brought back home in your personal luggage, (learn more here how Brits can now shop tax-free in Europe).

Duty free rules post Brexit

If you exceed your cigarettes or alcohol allowance, or bring something worth over £390, you would need to pay taxes on the full value of the goods and lose the duty free allowance.

This involves making a customs declaration and paying 20% UK VAT and any applicable duties, which can be done online on gov.uk website 5 days before arrival in the UK by giving details of your goods and their value. Make sure to keep all your receipts and labels in case customs officers decide to inspect your baggage on arrival.

You can maximise your allowance if travelling as a family so as to combine individual family members limits, however, you should not have any single items that exceeds the £390 threshold. Also there are no personal allowances for tobacco or alcohol if you’re under 17.

Duty free vs tax free shopping

Post Brexit, Brits can now do both duty free and tax free shopping in the EU.

When you purchase something duty free, it means that the retailer did not add any local taxes to the price. Duty free shopping is usually done at special stores located in the international zones of airports, train stations, and ports.

By contrast, tax free shopping is done at any shop that is able to provide the required documentation so that you can afterwards reclaim the local taxes already included in the purchase price.

Are duty free shops cheaper

Not always! Just because a duty free shop provides a discount by taking off the VAT, does not mean that the actual sales price is attractive in the first place. Unfortunately too many travellers have come to believe that duty free shopping is always a good deal that they blindly make purchases while passing time in the airport.

An interesting investigation by a UK travel comparison site revealed that some popular products sold at Heathrow and Gatwick duty free shops are better purchased online or on the high street instead. So don’t be fooled by discount price tags at airports and always do a quick google search on your smartphone before making impulse purchases!

Airport duty free priceUK high street or online price
CK One by Calvin Klein (200ml)£36.30£24.99
Gaultier Le Male Eau de Toilette (75ml)£31.05£26.11
Gordon’s Gin£17.99£17.00
Toblerone bar 400g£6.00£4.00

Top tip: make sure to consider exchange rates in your decision when comparing prices in different airports and countries as these can have a significant impact. Also take into account foreign fees that your bank might charge for using your card abroad, which may add a couple of extra percent to your true cost.