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Duty Free Allowances: Tobacco

Volume 465: debated on Thursday 25 October 2007

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what guidance he has issued on the levels of personal import allowances for (a) tobacco and (b) alcohol in relation to EU member states acceding (i) since and (ii) prior to 1999; and if he will make a statement; (160730)

(2) what steps have been taken to publicise the import allowances for tobacco and alcohol applicable to travellers to EU member states joining the EU (a) before and (b) since 1999.

Since completion of the single market in 1993, persons travelling between EU member states have been able to bring with them unlimited quantities of alcohol and tobacco, provided that the product is bought duty paid in the member state of purchase, is for their personal use, and is transported by them. HM Revenue and Customs (formerly HM Customs and Excise) publishes guidance on this in Public Notice 1 “A Customs Guide for Travellers Entering the UK”, copies of which are available at all UK ports and airports, on the HMRC website, or by calling the HMRC National Advice Service. It is also contained in the Customs Allowances posters displayed at all UK ports and airports.

Exceptions to these arrangements were agreed at EU level in 2004 and 2007 as part of transitional arrangements for countries joining the EU at those times. Existing member states were given the option to apply certain quantitative restrictions on personal importations of tobacco from accession countries for as long as those countries’ excise duty rates were below minimum EU levels. The UK applies these restrictions, which are identical to those applicable to travellers from non-EU countries, and has publicised this fact widely by amendments to the aforementioned guidance and publicity materials. Additionally, posters were placed in major airports of the accession countries concerned, and adverts were placed in a number of in-flight magazines.

Once the duty rates of the accession countries rise to minimum EU levels, the UK has committed to disapply these restrictions, and has already done so in the case of certain categories of tobacco products from two accession countries.