Guide

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

Special territories 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.

See the Territorial status of EU countries and certain territories.

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.

VAT rates within the EU

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.