by Doris Donnerman
(last updated April 27, 2012)
There are no customs duties on goods imported from other EU countries, but there may be VAT or excise duties. Each traveler has a duty free allowance (free of VAT and excises). Check your allowance with your travel agent before you go abroad.
There are no customs checks on travelers between the United Kingdom and other EU countries: these are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Private travelers can import goods freely provided they are for private rather than commercial use.
Goods imported from non-EU countries are subject to customs duty, VAT and excise duty. There are strict duty free limits. Check with your travel agent before you go abroad.
If you're taking valuables, such as jewelry, computers or camcorders, outside the EU, carry evidence of purchase with you.
Be careful of 'duty-free' shops. Items bought in duty-free shops are only free of duty if they are within your personal travel allowance. Duty is payable above those limits. Consider, too, that goods in these shops may not be cheaper than similar goods bought in ordinary, non-duty-free shops.
Although there used to be both a Green Channel (for those with nothing to declare) and a Red Channel (for those with goods to declare) at customs on arrival in the United Kingdom, this has changed since 1993. EU travelers now find only a Green Channel with a Red Spot to deal with dutiable goods.
Customs officers can search you and your luggage if they suspect smuggling. If you object, ask for the senior duty officer. But officers can insist you answer their questions.
If your luggage is searched, it is your task to repack it. But the property should not be damaged by a search. If it is, register your complaint with the customs officials at the time.
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