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EU Raises Tax-Free Import Limits

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

05 December 2008

From December 1, 2008, new rules on tax and duty free imports entered into force in the European Union (EU), meaning that travellers will benefit from cost savings when importing goods into Europe in their personal luggage.

The changes also mean that EU member states will avoid the disproportionately high administrative costs currently involved in collecting small amounts of duties and taxes.

Taxation and Customs Union Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs said on Monday: "Today's entry into force of new thresholds in duty-free travellers' allowances is good news for European travellers. Many of the previous rules, which have been in place since 1969, were no longer relevant to today's world. From today, citizens will benefit from a nearly doubled monetary threshold and more generously calculated limits for certain beverages when importing goods in their personal luggage into the European Union. At the same time, due to the increased monetary thresholds member states will avoid administrative costs currently involved in collecting small amounts of import duties and taxes."

Travellers' allowances are the monetary thresholds or the quantitative limits under which travellers entering the EU from third countries are allowed to import duty free in their personal luggage.

From December 1, 2008 onwards, the new rules will:

  • Increase the current monetary threshold from EUR175 to EUR430 for air and sea travellers and to EUR300 for land and inland waterways travellers. The lower threshold for the latter takes account of the special situation of member states that have land borders with countries where prices are significantly lower than in the EU.
  • Abolish the quantitative limits on perfume, eau de toilette, coffee and tea (which means that such items will come under the monetary threshold).
  • Increase the quantitative limit for still wine from 2 to 4 litres.
  • Introduce a quantitative limit of 16 litres for beer imports.
  • Give member states the option of reducing the quantitative limits on tobacco products (e.g. for cigarettes: from 200 to 40) in support of health policies.

The same rules apply if travellers come from territories where EU rules on VAT and excise do not apply, such as the Canary Islands, the Channel Islands, the French overseas departments, the Aland Islands and Gibraltar.

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