As of 2021, the alcohol allowance for UK travellers has changed under the new "Brexit arrangements." This new agreement came into UK law on the 31st December 2020, and applies to travel into and out of the United Kingdom.
Before we dive into the detail of that, a general rule still applies which we have explained just below.
There is NO duty free allowance if you are under the age of 17. Once you are over 18 then the duty free allowances do apply.
Alcohol Allowance - Brexit Agreement
The general purpose of this article is to explain the alcohol allowance when travelling from the UK or flying into the UK.
The principle is that you can bring some goods from abroad without having to pay UK tax or ‘duty’, as long as they’re for your own use. This is commonly known as your ‘personal allowance’.
The amount of goods you can bring in without paying tax or duty on them depends on three main criteria:
- Where you are travelling from?
- If you are arriving into Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales)
- If you are arriving into Northern Ireland (although Northern Ireland is part of the UK, different rules apply)
Most people will be familiar with having to declare goods at customs. What that means is that you have a legal obligation to tell customs about any goods before crossing a UK border check. Those goods are of 2 types:
- Where you exceed any allowances
- Any banned or restricted items ( controlled drugs, offensive weapons, pepper spray, meat and dairy imports etc)
In the situation where you exceed an allowance, you will have to pay tax and duty on all those goods. Please note that should you break any of the above rules you may be fined or prosecuted.
Alcohol Allowance Allowed When Arriving in UK from a Non-EU Country
Travellers coming into Britain from any Non-EU Country can take without paying duty as follows:
- 1 litre of Spirits or strong liquors (over 22% alcohol by volume [ABV]) OR,
- 2 litres of fortified wine (port or sherry) or any other alcoholic beverage of less than 22% ABV
In addition you may also bring back:
- 16 litres of beer, AND
- 4 litres of still wine
You may combine these allowances, provided that you do not exceed your total alcohol allowance. As an example, you could bring back 1 litre of fortified wine (50% of your full allowance of 2 litres), and bring back half a litre of spirits (50% of the full allowance of 1 litre) to make up your 100% alcohol allowance. Please note, this is only an example and other combinations are also allowed.
Alcohol Allowance Allowed When Arriving in UK
Travellers coming into Britain can take alcohol without paying duty as follows:
- Beer - 42 litres
- Wine (not sparkling) - 18 litres
You can also bring in either:
- Spirits and other liquors over 22% alcohol - 4 litres
- Fortified wine such as a sherry or port, sparkling wine and any alcohol drink up to 22% alcohol - 9 litres
- 200 sticks of tobacco for electronic heated tobacco devices
You can split this last allowance. As an example you could bring 4.5 litres of fortified wine and 2 litres of spirits (both half of your allowance).
Travelling to the EU from Great Britain
Travelers between the EU and Great Britain have duty-free allowances as a result of the Brexit deal struck between the EU bloc and the UK on 24 December 2020.
4 litres of still wine; and b. 16 litres of beer; and c. a total of 1 litre of spirits over 22 % vol. OR 1 litre of undenatured alcohol (ethyl alcohol) of 80% vol. (or over) OR 2 litres of fortified or sparkling wine.
Alcohol Allowance Allowed When Arriving in Northern Ireland from any EU Country
If you are travelling to Northern Ireland from any EU country You can bring an unlimited amount of most goods directly into NI from the EU, As an example you can bring in any alcohol, tobacco, as long as they are for your own use and carried in your luggage.
Alcohol Allowance Allowed When Arriving in Northern Ireland from Outside the EU
When travelling to the UK from a non-EU country you can bring in goods up to the limits below without paying duty and/or tax in the UK (non-EU countries includes the Canary Islands, the Channel Islands, and Gibraltar). These goods must be for your own use or intended as gifts and carried in your luggage. If you intend to sell or accept any kind of payment for the goods you bring in then this is classed as commercial use.
- 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs (over 22% Alcohol by Volume [ABV]), or
- 2 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), sparkling wine or any other alcoholic beverage of less than 22% ABV
You may combine these allowances, provided that you do not exceed your total alcohol allowance.
Travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
If you’re travelling from Great Britain (England, Wales or Scotland) to Northern Ireland, you do not need to declare your goods if all of the following apply:
- You are a UK resident
- The goods were bought in England, Scotland, Wales or the Isle of Man
- You have already paid both VAT and excise duty (alcohol and tobacco only) on the goods
If you are travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain (England, Wales or Scotland) you do not have to declare any goods.
Hopefully you are a little bit wiser about the various alcohol allowances for traveling to and from the UK.