Importing and exporting by post

Receiving postal packages from the European Union

There are selective checks on goods imported from the European Union (EU) to prevent banned items, such as drugs, indecent or obscene material and weapons, from entering the UK. These also help to make sure that the correct charges are being paid.

Which countries are full EU members?

The current member states are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • UK

Goods received from areas of Cyprus that are not under the control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus are treated as non-EU imports.

What are the 'Special Territories'?

These are part of the EU when it comes to Customs procedures. If you import goods from these places, you do not have to pay Customs duty, but they are subject to excise duty and import VAT. The special territories are:

  • Ă…land Islands (Finland)
  • Canary Islands (Spain)
  • Channel Islands*
  • Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique and Reunion
  • Mount Athos (Greece)

Because goods from the Special Territories are liable for excise duty and import VAT, they are handled in the same way as goods imported from outside the EU.

*However from 1 April 2012, all merchandise/mail order goods sent to the UK from the Channel Islands became liable to VAT at import, no matter what the value of the goods.

Following the establishment of a Customs Union between Turkey and the EU in 1996, many Turkish goods do not have to pay Customs duty, although excise duty and import VAT still apply.

VAT rates

Within the EU, every country is required to charge a standard VAT rate of at least 15 per cent, and a reduced rate of at least 5 per cent, on a wide range of goods and services. But VAT rates vary between EU member states and for different goods. In addition, some countries have special rules and exceptions. You can find the most up-to-date VAT rates applicable in all EU member states.

What about receiving alcohol and tobacco from the EU?

If you buy alcohol and tobacco by post on a commercial basis from the EU, excise duty and import VAT must be paid. The seller should arrange to pay these taxes before the items are sent to you. If this isn't the case, the goods may be confiscated. Read more about paying duty on excise goods in Public Notice 203.

If you are sent alcohol and tobacco for personal use - as a gift through the post - or you send it to yourself from another EU member state, you must pay excise duty but not import VAT.

Gifts of alcohol and tobacco from the Special Territories do not attract Customs duty. However, they are liable to excise duty and import VAT.