Personal Allowances for Excise Goods

Condemnation & Cash Forfeiture

27 June 2024

One of the less well advertised aspects of Brexit has been the loss of the free market which allowed an individual to bring excise goods into the UK for their “personal use” without paying duty on them.

The Excise Goods (Holding, Movement and Duty Point) Regulations 2010 (S.I. 2010 No 593 Regulation 13(4) set out a number of factors to be considered when determining whether goods were for personal use, including whether they were in excess of “Minimum Indicative Levels” (“MIL”) and allowed a traveller to bring in, for example, up to 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of still wine and 800 cigarettes or 1 kilo (i.e. 20, 50 gram pouches) of hand rolling tobacco before it would be considered “commercial” (in which case duty was payable). In addition, you were allowed to bring in goods intended to be given away as gifts to family or friends as part of those quantities.

The MIL were only one of several factors, albeit usually the starting (and often the finishing) point, in any assessment as to whether or not goods were being brought in for commercial purposes. The others included the person’s conduct, finances and reasons for having the goods; the location, mode of transport and packaging of and any documentation relating to the goods; and “any other circumstances that appears to be relevant”. It was not unusual for goods in excess of the MIL to be accepted as being intended for personal use in the particular circumstances of the individual traveller, either by Border Force on interception or by Magistrates’ Courts in the course of condemnation proceedings.

Following the end of the Brexit transition period (i.e. from 1st January 2021) the concept of “personal use” ended and personal allowances (the old “duty-free” arrangements which older readers, or ones used to travelling beyond the EU, may recall) were reinstated pursuant to the Travellers’ Allowances Order 1994 (S.I. 1994/955), albeit with slightly increased allowances, e.g. 42 litres of beer, 18 litres of still wine, 4 litres of spirits, 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of hand rolling tobacco etc. – see Bringing goods into the UK for personal use: Arriving in Great Britain – GOV.UK ( for full details – providing they are for your own use (or use as gifts).

If you have more than those allowances, or if the goods are not for your own use, then the goods must be declared prior to passing the “duty point” (i.e. UK Border Control, which for the Channel Tunnel is in Coquelles, France) and duty must be paid on those items.

A “Simplified” online scheme operates for declaring goods and paying duty where the quantities of those goods are between the personal allowance and an “Upper Threshold” limit set by the (new) Schedule 2 to the 1994 Order (reflecting the old personal use “Minimum Indicative Levels”); for hand rolling tobacco this amounts to excise duty at £412.32 per kilo plus customs duty of 70% of the value of the goods (plus Import VAT at 20%). Obviously, the economics of a “booze cruise” to stock up for a party, Christmas or wedding are seriously dented when the duty has to be paid!

In addition, Border Force can seize undeclared or mis-declared goods and, under Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (“CEMA”) section 141(1)(a), any vehicle used to transport the seized goods and/or under section 141(1)(b) any goods “mixed, packed or found” with the seized goods. Such seizures can be challenged through either Condemnation proceedings (usually in the Magistrates Court) or, following an internal review process under section 152(b) CEMA, Restoration proceedings in the First-Tier Tribunal, Tax Chamber.

Paul Tapsell’s book  ‘A Practical Guide to Challenging Seizures under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979’ by Paul Tapsell – Law Brief Publishing will be published in July 2024 price £49.99 and will be available from or from Becket Chambers (email Quote code KB45HY4 for a special 10% discount.

Members of Becket Chambers’ Civil Team are able to assist with condemnation, forfeiture and other matters; please contact the clerks on 01227 786331 or via for further details.


For help, advice or if you wish to instruct a member of Chambers, please contact our Clerking team