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Do we have to pay duty and vat on imports of wine for own consumption from online wine dealers in france?

We have just taken delivery of an 18 bottle case from a winery in Germany, delivered by UPS. The cost of shipping was a very reasonable €18 on top of the wine. I now have an agonising wait to see if we get a demand from the UK customs…

The normal payment method was by BACS but it was faffy and would have cost extra. So in the end we agreed with the seller to ring up and pay by credit card. We knew the people involved having stayed there and bought their wine whilst in situ, so we felt it a safe way to go.

I would assume if you have taken delivery you should be ok, if customs wanted you to pay duty then they would’ve demanded it before delivery.


Never been asked to pay anything on over 20 cases I’ve bought directly, mostly from Spain Order while you can :unamused:

Last order from vinicimus added 20% vat but no other duty as far as I could tell.

In the UK, there are potentially 3 types of tax on wine: import duty, VAT and alcohol duty. If you buy online from a merchant in another EU country as an end consumer:

  1. There is no import duty at all for goods coming from the EU, so that is of no concern.

  2. The merchant pays local VAT, and UK VAT is not payable (I think there may also be provisions for large companies to chose to pay UK VAT instead)

  3. UK duty is the problem, as it must be paid BEFORE the wine enters the UK. I don’t know for sure, but I bet most foreign merchants are totally unaware of this, as sending to most EU countries doesn’t require it. And if they were aware, I doubt they would want to get involved with the admin of paying UK duty. Some couriers/agents will pay the required duty on their behalf if asked, but that is apparently expensive. If UK duty is not paid when it should be, the wine is liable to be confiscated - there is no mechanism to pay duty after the wine has been imported.

I don’t know if you are allowed to take deliveries from other EU countries into a UK bounded warehouse, or indeed how to find out. Best to ask your warehouse about it if you have an account with one, I suppose.

There used to be a warehouse in France near Calais that would take deliveries for you for a modest charge, allowing you to pop over the channel to pick up when convenient. It was called Chai Andresen or something similar, and I fancy it changed its name, but I cannot find it now.

All that said, I too have taken a few deliveries from the continent with no problems. I think HMRC has bigger fish to dry.

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It was called Chai Ardresien (in Ardres) but I think it is now called vineyards-direct.com, in Coquelles. Presumably the business was sold, though I think they still offer this service.

There is also Boursot wines in Ardres (www.boursot.co.uk) who offer this service. Guy Boursot used to work for BBR and they have a shop and warehouse.

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I often wondered why they had a Scandinavian-looking name :wink:

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technically, and to the letter of the law - if you are shipping goods they are liable for any of the duties and taxes you list - even if nothing to pay, paperwork must be done. But in most cases you are not shipping - you are asking a merchant to deliver them to your property…by Incoterms this could mean either DDP (delivered Duty Paid) and it is for the merchant to make any payments or DAP (delivered at place) where it is for you to make any payments - what do any terms & conditions of sale say; who do they place the liability upon?

The only reasons you wouldn’t pay is if, as an individual, you personally transport (in a vehicle in which you are present) less than 90 litres of wine that is for use by yourself and have paid local taxes… ie the goods are in duty paid free circulation in the EU. This is MO for warehouses near calais - they grouped all your wines in an accessible place and put the onus on you to get it back into the UK.

Otherwise…the goods need to be customs cleared - EU law

  1. Import duty depends upon any trade agreements - like you say, nothing to pay if it is an intra-EU shipment (util 31st October!) if I remember its about 7ppl from Oz but its different (cheaper) if shipped in bulk! It’s zero from RSA. The official WTO tariff rate is 32% of value.

  2. if you aren’t VAT registered (and most individuals aren’t!) then VAT is paid by the merchant. Its not a choice for large companies…anyone Vat registered must pay

  3. Duty - most individuals (via the merchant) use a courier to bring the goods to the UK. Technically this is an importation and the goods should be declared by either the merchant or the courier (on behalf of the merchant (who probably won’t have an HMRC account)) to HMRC for the payment of alcohol duty (£2.16 + VAT per bottle still wine) the merchant in some circumstances can then use this proof of payment to reclaim the duty in their own country (my previous company actually took the Zollamt (German customs) to court for breaking EU law and not allowing a reclaim when we moved duty paid product from Germany to France - we had accounts with both customs authorities)

On any shipping (e-)documents a commodity code and product description should be used - this is how customs authorities know what has been imported / exported (its how trade figures are determined)

Merchants can transfer from one bonded warehouse to another over country borders - classed as moved under duty suspension and needs a SAD "accompanying’ the shipment. Can either be to a private or public warehouse. Its how we get “in-bond” offers in the UK - the wine is shipped from the producer (without having been “localised”)

Did you know - you don’t pay alcohol duty on wine you make yourself for domestic consumption…and that includes wines made from leased wines under contract ie - rent 1ha from 3 choirs and contract them to cultivate and vinify and you pay no duty ! It’s very similar to the position that you can make an amount of biodiesel for personal consumption without paying hydrocarbon duty.


Let’s wait and see about that date :wink:

I didn’t mean to suggest that large companies could choose not to pay VAT at all. Just that they could choose where to pay it - locally or in the country they are sending the goods to. (And I read about it nany years ago, so I may have misremembered, or it may have changed.)

just going with the currently touted date :wink:

Don’t worry, I didn’t take it as large companies not paying VAT - heaven forbid that any large companies actively avoid tax !! It was more that as an individual you are not liable in this case. I think the VAT laws are very complex…well my tax experts told me so in the past :joy:

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A useful summary, @JamesF

Can I just query this statement?

I know this figure has been bandied about a lot, and you can find it quoted all over the place. But my understanding is that it is a misapplication of a data point in the EU’s WTO MFN tables. Probably a misreading of the tariff of €32/hl for sparkling wines. Which is of course a lot less, at €0.32/litre. Your comments would be welcome!

WTO MFN rates application data for the EU - the commodity code for wine is 2204

as you say there are rates of 32€/hL but there are ad volerem (AV) rates quoted as 32% of value…so it can be complicated.

thanks for the link - from the WTO export it appears the only AV rates are for grape must 220430. Sparkling wine, still and fortified (in sub 2lt and 2to 10 lt) seem to all be on a per hL basis

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Actually, there is no limit. It’s just that customs may assume anything over 90 litres (i.e. 10 x 12 bottle cases) may be sold on so they may ask you to justify it. Buying for a wedding come to mind.

If tax is to be paid, in my experience the shipping company such as DFL will pay the tax and demand it from you plus their admin charge.

The demand may come after they deliver the wine.

I didn’t say a limit - the EU provides guide levels and states the level can not be lower than 90litres in any member country…we chose to adopt 90…unlike HMRC to be generous :wink:

Justification for increased levels is ‘there and then’ at the border…you can’t just say we have a family wedding, you must have proof…amazingly i’ve never brought back more than 120 bottles :slight_smile:

Apologies, I read

as a limit.

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Yes wouldn’t worry too much. I’ve had deliveries from EU with local VAT applied by a few carriers like DHL, UPS etc and no charges as you have paid the Tax in Germany. Shipping from Germany in particular is very reasonable.


Absolutely correct. It’s not 32%.