Buying tobacco over the Internet

 

Contents

Is it legal to buy tobacco over the internet from another European Community country?

What if the tobacco is a personal gift?

How can you go over to France and buy what you want for your own personal use but you can’t do the same over the Internet?

How much UK duty and tax should be paid on 200 cigarettes?

If I pay the UK duty and VAT on seized cigarettes can I keep them?

Is it illegal to import tobacco and not pay the UK taxes if the duty & VAT has been paid in another EC country?

Is it true that the end of duty free means this is now legal when it wasn’t before?

What is Customs doing about the Internet sites selling these goods?

Are you investigating any particular sites?

What are the rules for buying tobacco over the Internet from outside the EC?

 

Always check with Customs before buying tobacco on-line. Most sites offering cheap cigarettes are a rip off.

All cigarettes bought via the Internet must bear UK taxes. There are no allowances or loopholes.

Cigarettes bought from sites that do not arrange payment of UK taxes are liable to forfeiture. In the last year Customs have destroyed over 10 million such cigarettes.

Detailed below is a series of frequently asked questions concerning the purchase of cigarettes over the Internet.

Tobacco purchases from outside the EC:

Tobacco purchases from within the EC:

Is it legal to buy tobacco over the internet from another European Community country?

Yes, but ONLY if the UK VAT and excise duty is paid on the goods. The person who sells the goods must make arrangements for these taxes to be paid before they are sent to you. If you are a customer, it is in your interests to ensure this has been done, otherwise the goods are liable to forfeiture by Customs at the postal depot.

What if the tobacco is a personal gift?

There are no statutory reliefs for tobacco goods posted as gifts from other EC countries, however Customs will not normally make additional charges provided that:

  • It is a bona-fide gift sent from a private person in another EC country to a private person in UK;
  • It must be for your own personal use and cannot be sold to others;
  • You must not have paid for it, either directly or indirectly.
  • There must be no commercial or trade element to the contents of the consignment
  • It must be of an occasional nature (e.g. birthday, anniversary etc.).

Purchasing cigarettes from an internet company in another EC country to send to a family member or friend as a gift will NOT qualify for relief of duty and VAT.

How can you go over to France and buy what you want for your own personal use but you can’t do the same over the Internet?

Under an EU directive (Council Directive 92/12/EEC), tobacco dispatched by a vendor in one member state to a private individual in another forms a commercial transaction and is liable to duty in the member state of destination.

How much UK duty and tax should be paid on 200 cigarettes?

The current rate of Excise duty on 200 king size cigarettes is around £32.20. Before placing an order you should ask yourself whether the prices being advertised on the web site indicate that the vendor is taking these charges into account and properly accounting for them. If not, your goods are liable to forfeiture and you put yourself at risk of prosecution.

If I pay the UK duty and VAT on seized cigarettes can I keep them?

No, Customs only restore seized cigarettes in exceptional circumstances. We do not ordinarily restore seized goods as we wish to:

  • ensure that excise goods not normally available in the UK from legitimate outlets do not become commercially available.
  • protect the revenues of both the UK Government and legitimate wholesale and retail trade.

Is it illegal to import tobacco and not pay the UK taxes if the duty & VAT has been paid in another EC country?

Yes - even if the relevant taxes have been paid in another EC country, the UK duty and tax must be paid when the goods enter this country.

Is it true that the end of duty free means this is now legal when it wasn’t before?

The end of duty free within the EC has had no effect . "Duty free" remains a concession available to travellers to and from countries outside of the EC. The Excise Goods (Personal Reliefs) Order 1992 requires that, to qualify for relief of duty, the goods purchased abroad must be personally imported by the traveller. This means that the goods must be carried with them at the time of their return to the UK. Purchasing goods over the Internet does not qualify for this relief of duty.

What is Customs doing about the Internet sites selling these goods?

Customs is well aware of these sites and we are vigorously pursuing action against them. Our officers at postal depots are actively targeting postal importations of cigarettes.

Are you investigating any particular sites?

Yes, but we do not comment on individual investigations that may be ongoing.

Tobacco purchases from outside the EC:

What are the rules for buying tobacco over the Internet from outside the EC?

Tobacco sent from outside the EC must be properly declared and will be liable to import duty, UK VAT & excise duty. There are concessions for "gifts" but these are subject to certain conditions:

  • They must be of an occasional nature only, such as a birthday or anniversary;
  • The value of the goods must not exceed 45 ECU (currently £36);
  • They must be correctly declared to Customs;
  • They must have been sent by a private person abroad to a private person in this country;
  • The gift must be for the personal use of the recipient, or their family;
  • There must be no commercial or trade element;
  • They must not have been paid for either directly or indirectly.

In addition, any tobacco products must be within the following allowances:

  • 50 cigarettes; or
  • 25 cigarillos (cigars with a maximum weight of 3 gms); or
  • 10 cigars; or
  • 50 gms of tobacco or a proportional assortment of the different products.

Anything in excess of these allowances is liable to charges.

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$START-DATA$ title=Buying tobacco over the Internet^ summary=Buying tobacco over the internet^ doctype=General^ date=04-Mar-2004^ author=sr135022^ $END-DATA$
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