Changes to duty free shopping

The government has published the new rules for duty free and tax free shopping that will come into effect from 1 January 2021. The changes are wide ranging.

For anyone who smokes or drinks there will be no duty charged on alcohol or tobacco products from January 2021. This will apply irrespective of whether you are travelling to an EU or non-EU country. The new rules will apply to British ports, airports, international rail stations and sales on ships, trains and planes. 

There will also be new increased personal limits on what you can bring home. This means that passengers coming to Britain will be able to bring back, for example, three crates of beer, two case of still wine and one case of sparkling wine or 4 litres of spirits to GB without paying UK duties.

The government has also announced the ending of all tax free sales from January 2021. This will apply to relevant sales of tax-free transactions in airports of goods in sectors such as: electronics, fashion and beauty products and will apply to passengers travelling to non-EU countries.

It has also been announced that the VAT Retail Export Scheme is to be scrapped from 1 January 2021. This means that VAT refunds for overseas visitors in British shops will be removed. The only exception will be when an item is shipped directly from the seller to the home address of the foreign customer.

The changes will apply in England, Wales and Scotland. The rules in Northern Ireland are still under discussion.

Duty free limits if you are travelling abroad

Here is a reminder of your duty and tax free allowances if travelling abroad this Christmas.

Travelling to an EU country

Where tobacco or alcohol is brought in from another EU country, no duties or tax will be payable as long as you can demonstrate that the goods are for your own use and that you paid the relevant taxes and duties on the purchase.

However, HMRC provide the following guidelines as to an acceptable maximum for personal use. If you exceed these limits, you are more likely to be subject to further questioning.

  • 800 cigarettes
  • 200 cigars
  • 400 cigarillos
  • 1kg of tobacco
  • 110 litres of beer
  • 90 litres of wine
  • 10 litres of spirits
  • 20 litres of fortified wine (for example port or sherry)

If you are travelling outside the EU you are allowed to bring the following back to the UK for your own use without any UK tax or duty liabilities.

  • 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco
  • 4 litres of still table wine
  • 16 litres of beer
  • 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22 per cent volume; or 2 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), sparkling wine or other alcoholic beverages of less than 22 per cent volume.
  • £390 limit for of all other goods including perfume and souvenirs. If you are lucky enough to be arriving by private plane or boat for pleasure purposes, you can bring in goods up to the value of £270 tax free.

It remains to be seen if any changes will be made to the EU limits after the Brexit transition period ends.

Duty free limits if you are travelling abroad

Here is a reminder for our readers of their duty and tax free allowances if travelling abroad this summer.

Travelling to an EU country

Where tobacco or alcohol is brought in from another EU country no duties or tax will be payable as long as you can demonstrate that the goods are for your own use and that you paid the relevant taxes and duties on the purchase.

However, HMRC provide the following guidelines as to an acceptable maximum for personal use. If you exceed these limits, you are more likely to be subject to further questioning.

  • 800 cigarettes
  • 200 cigars
  • 400 cigarillos
  • 1kg of tobacco
  • 110 litres of beer
  • 90 litres of wine
  • 10 litres of spirits
  • 20 litres of fortified wine (for example port or sherry)

Travelling to a non-EU country

If you are travelling outside the EU you are allowed to bring the following back to the UK for your own use without any UK tax or duty liabilities.

  • 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco
  • 4 litres of still table wine
  • 16 litres of beer
  • 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22 per cent volume; or 2 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), sparkling wine or other alcoholic beverages of less than 22 per cent volume.
  • £390 limit for of all other goods including perfume and souvenirs. If you are lucky enough to be arriving by private plane or boat for pleasure purposes, you can bring in goods up to the value of £270 tax free.

When does ATED apply?

The Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED) came into effect from 1 April 2013. The tax applies to certain Non-Natural Persons (NNPs) that own interests in dwellings valued at more than £500,000. These provisions affect most companies, partnerships with company members and collective investment schemes. There is no ATED or ATED-related Capital Gains Tax payable if an individual owns a property directly, rather than through a company.

The main ATED reliefs are broadly where the property is:

  • in use for the purposes of a property rental business run commercially with a view to profit (subject to certain exceptions);
  • held as trading stock of a property development or trading business (again, subject to exceptions);
  • open to the public for at least 28 days a year as part of a trade carried on commercially with a view to profit;
  • repossessed by a mortgage lender;
  • a farmhouse, subject to meeting various conditions;
  • held by a charity for its charitable purposes, subject to meeting various conditions;
  • held by a registered social housing provider for qualifying purposes.

Dwellings are revalued for ATED purposes every 5 years. The definition of the ‘dwelling’ includes the garden or grounds that go with the dwelling. There are also special rules where an NNP holds an interest in more than one dwelling such as a block of flats or where they own a dwelling and non-residential land.

For the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, ATED is chargeable on property valued at:

  • More than £500,000 but not more than £1 million – £3,650
  • More than £1 million but not more than £2 million – £7,400
  • More than £2 million but not more than £5 million – £24,800
  • More than £5 million but not more than £10 million – £57,900
  • More than £10 million but not more than £20 million – £116,100
  • More than £20 million – £232,350.

Air Passenger Duty changes

Air Passenger Duty (APD) is a departure tax levied on most air travel. Each geographical band has two rates of Air Passenger Duty, one for standard class and the second for ‘other’ higher classes of travel (usually premium economy / business / first class).


The band A (short-haul) rate ranges from £13 for a standard class journey and £26 for an ‘other’ class of travel remain unchanged from 1 April 2019. The Band B (long-haul) rates for journeys over 2,000 miles range from £78 to £172 a small increase over the 2018-19 rates.


Passengers using certain classes of private jets face even higher charges. The short-haul band remains frozen at £78 but the long-haul rates have increased to £515 (from £468).


Children under 16 are exempt from APD when travelling in standard economy class. There are also exemptions from APD for flights from airports in the Scottish Highlands and Islands as well as an exemption for direct long-haul flights departing from Northern Ireland.