Importing tobacco from another EU country


Importing is when an individual or business brings goods or services into the UK from another country.  Careful consideration as to the practicalities needs to be given if you intend to imports goods; this may include how to get the goods into the country, as well as the legal requirements.

Under UK law, a number of legal responsibilities are imposed on you if you wish to import goods in the UK. One of the first and probably most important duties being that you will have to check if the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) requires you to have a licence.

The legal age for importing tobacco into the UK is 18 years.

Tobacco purchases over the internet from another EU country

In short it is legal to buy tobacco over the internet from another European Community country. However it is only legal if the UK VAT and excise duty is paid on the goods. The person who sells the goods must make arrangements for these taxes to be paid before they are sent to you in the UK. It is in your interests as a customer to check that all the requirements have been satisfied; otherwise the goods you buy are likely to be seized by Customs at the postal depot.

It is crucial to ensure that the UK duty and tax is paid when the goods enter this country, even if the relevant taxes have been paid in another EU country. If the tobacco purchased has not had its VAT and excise duty accounted for, your goods are liable to forfeiture and you put yourself at risk of prosecution. Generally, Customs will NOT restore seized items even if you are later able to pay the UK duty and VAT.

Even if the tobacco is a personal gift, there are no statutory reliefs for tobacco goods posted as gifts from other EU countries, and so the excise duty must still be paid prior to the goods arriving into the UK but the import VAT charge is waivered.  However, additional charges will not normally be made provided that:

    It is a bona-fide gift sent from a private person in another EC country to a private person in UK; It must be for your own personal use and cannot be sold to others; You must not have paid for it, either directly or indirectly.

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For more information on:

  • Purchasing tobacco in person from another EU country
  • Amounts