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Duty-free imports: New rules for travellers' allowances into the European Union - briefing

02 December 2008
by eub2 -- last modified 02 December 2008

From 1 December 2008, new rules on tax and duty free imports enter into force. Travellers will benefit from cost savings when importing goods into the EU in their personal luggage. At the same time, EU Member States will avoid administrative costs currently involved in collecting small amounts of 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 1 December 2008 onwards, the new rules will:

  • Increase the current monetary threshold from € 175 to € 430 for air and sea travellers and to € 300 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.

Here is a summary:

First option
Second Option
Tobacco products
200 cigarettes or
100 cigarillos or
50 cigars or
250 grams of tobacco
40 cigarettes or
20 cigarillos or
10 cigars or
50 grams of tobacco
Alcoholic drinks
- A total of 1 litre of alcohol and alcoholic beverages of an alcoholic strength exceeding 22 % vol, or undenatured ethyl alcohol of 80 % vol and over, or

a total of 2 litres of alcohol and alcoholic beverages of an alcoholic strength not exceeding 22 % vol.
- Additionally, a total of 4 litres of still wine and up to
16 litres of beer (only for VAT and excise duty).
In any one means of motor transport, the fuel contained in the standard tank and a quantity of fuel not exceeding 10 litres contained in a portable container.
Any other goods including perfume, coffee or tea
Up to a value of 430 Euro for air and sea travellers
Up to a value of 300 Euro for other travellers

For instance, in the best case, air travellers can import duty-free 200 cigarettes, 1 litre of spirits, 4 litres of wine, 16 litres of beer and 430 € of other goods (toys, perfume, electronic devices...). Taxes and customs duties will be applied to the value of goods exceeding those limits. However, the value of an individual item may not be split up.

Source: European Commission