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Duty-free Allowances

Volume 698: debated on Tuesday 5 February 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

To what level the duty-free personal travel allowance will rise from £145; and on what date; and [HL1594]

What steps they take to enforce the present duty-free personal travel allowance of £145; and how many persons from outside the European Union passing through the green customs channel with up to £1,000 worth of goods who have been stopped in the last 12 months have been (a) warned and made to pay duty; (b) made to pay duty plus penalties; and (c) prosecuted; and [HL1595]

What is the amount of customs duty (including VAT) which was collected from travellers entering the United Kingdom from outside the European Union during the last 12 months; and [HL1596]

How many customs officers are currently employed at United Kingdom points of entry; and of these how many could be released for other duties if the free personal travel allowance were raised from £145 to £1,000. [HL1597]

On 1 December 2008, the tax-free allowance for travellers entering the EU by air and sea will rise to €430. This equates to about £290, which doubles the current allowance.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have around 4,500 officers who cover UK ports and airports. The officers are employed on a multi-functional basis, working on a wide range of duties, and not solely to enforce the duty-free personal allowance. It is therefore not readily possible to assess the direct impact of raising the personal allowance to £1,000, although any increase in the allowance would lead to an overall reduction in the administrative cost in collecting and accounting for duty.

To enforce the current duty-free allowance, officers intercept and challenge passengers following risk-based profiles. They also accept payment from passengers at red points. As statistics are not currently collated in respect of activities in relation to personal allowances, figures relating to the number of travellers with up to £1,000 of goods stopped in the green channel in the last 12 months cannot be obtained except at a disproportionate cost.

The total amount of revenue collected from travellers entering the UK in 2007 was £12.8 million. However it is not possible to differentiate between customs duty, excise duty and VAT except at a disproportionate cost.