Flights: New duty-free shopping rules announced for holidaymakers in 2021

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Holidays often see jet-setters stocking up on alcohol, cigarettes and more at airport duty-free stores. But what is the future for duty-free shopping with Britain leaving the European Union? This week, the government revealed there will be changes from January 2021.

British passengers travelling to EU countries will be able to take advantage of duty-free shopping from January 2021, bringing the UK’s approach to the EU in line with the rest of the world.

Passengers will be able to buy duty-free alcohol and tobacco products, where available, in British ports, airports, and international train stations, and aboard ships, trains and planes.

“This follows a consultation with industry on our approach to taxing goods carried across borders for personal use from January 2021, as the end of the transition period brings with it powers to set our own rules in this area,” explained HM Treasury.

The amount that passengers can bring back with them from non-EU Countries will also be significantly increased, and extended to EU countries.

This will provide one of the most generous allowances anywhere in the world.

Travellers coming to Britain will be able to bring back, for instance, three crates of beer, two cases of still wine and one case of sparkling wine without paying UK duties.

The government is also ending tax-free sales in airports of goods such as electronics and clothing for passengers travelling to non-EU countries.

This follows concerns that the tax-concession is not always passed on to consumers in the airport.

In some instances these tax-free goods are brought back into the country by UK residents, putting high street retailers at a disadvantage.

Furthermore, VAT refunds for overseas visitors in British shops will be removed.

Overseas visitors will still be able to buy items VAT-free in-store and have them sent directly to their overseas addresses, while the costly system of claiming VAT refunds on items they take home in their luggage will be ended

“The post-transition passengers’ VAT and excise consultation was launched at Spring Budget 2020 and closed in May,” stated HM Treasury.

“UK excise duty will no longer be due on alcohol and tobacco bought when leaving GB.”

For example, alcohol purchased duty-free on the way to the EU could be up to:

£2.23 cheaper for a 75cl bottle of wine.

£2.86 cheaper for a 75cl bottle of Champagne or Prosecco.

£2.28 cheaper for six 50cl cans of 4 percent ABV beer.

£11.50 cheaper for a 1l bottle of 40 percent ABV spirits.

Duty-free, personal allowance and the VAT Retail Export Scheme changes will apply in England, Wales and Scotland.

The government explained the new Great Britain inbound personal allowances specified below:


42 litres of beer
18 litres of still wine
Four litres of spirits or nine litres of sparkling wine, fortified wine or any alcoholic beverage less than 22 percent ABV


200 cigarettes OR
100 cigarillos OR
50 cigars OR
250g tobacco OR
200 sticks of tobacco for heating
or any proportional combination of the above

Any other goods

£390 or £270 if travelling by private plane or boat

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