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What the Up and Coming Changes in UK’s Duty-Free Shopping Rules Will Mean For British Passengers


Multiple changes to duty-free shopping and VAT have been announced by the government after consultation with the industry, held from 2 pm on March 11, 2020, to 11:45 pm on May 20, 2020. It was part of the policy changes reviewed in view of the UK’s (United Kingdom) new relationship with the EU (European Union.) Multiple policy options were discussed. These include:

  1. The number of goods that passengers are permitted to take into the UK without paying duty and tax
  2. Duty-free goods sales to passengers departing from the UK
  3. Tax-free goods sales to passengers departing from the UK
  4. The VAT retail export scheme that permits particular non-UK residents to procure a VAT reimbursement on high street goods purchased and brought to their home by them in their luggage

 Duty changes

The up and coming changes will be in effect from January 2021. There are two key changes to the purchase of duty-free goods. They assimilate visitors of the European Union (EU) and non-EU visitors:

  • British passengers will have the ability to purchase duty-free alcohol and tobacco in international train stations, airports, and British ports. This also applies to purchases while aboard planes, ships, trains.
  • The quantity that passengers from non-EU countries can bring back with themselves is also permitted to increase tremendously. This change is also applicable to EU countries, which creates one of the most benevolent allowances anywhere in the world.

VAT changes

Presently in the UK, non-EU visitors have the ability to claim reimbursement of the VAT on goods purchased there and brought to their home. However, this is removed starting 1st January 2021, according to the new changes made in the consultation by the government:

  • The purchase of tax-free goods will no longer be permissible for passengers from the UK traveling to non-UK countries. A couple of examples of such items are electronics and clothing. It will be forfeited due to concerns that the VAT concession is not necessarily passed down to the consumers in every purchase at the airport. Another valid concern is the handicap high street stores incur when tax-free goods are carried back on returning to the UK.
  • The VAT retail export scheme will cease to exist, and VAT refunds cannot be attained by overseas visitors on goods they have purchased in British shops to carry in their baggage. However, they will be able to purchase goods free of VAT only if they have the goods delivered to their overseas addresses. This leads to shipping costs associated with these VAT-free purchases. It also leads to the inability to make quick use of the goods that are purchased by the overseas visitor. The VAT retail export scheme is being removed because of apprehension that it is expensive and weighty for the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) to operate.

It is advisable to stay up to date with changes. For that, use this business VAT calculator whenever needed.

Changes in leaving Great Britain in 2021

After the changes in policies regarding changes in customs duty and VAT, alcoholic beverages are cheaper. The allowance limit is also large.


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