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Tax free allowances: international travel


The European Union is establishing Community tax-exemption arrangements for the non-commercial importation of goods by travellers in respect of intra-Community travel and travel between Member States and third countries


Council Directive 69/169/EEC of 28 May 1969 on the harmonisation of provisions laid down by Law, Regulation or Administrative Action relating to exemption from turnover tax and excise duty on imports in international travel [See amending acts].


The Directives authorise exemption from turnover tax and excise duty on imports.

Travel from third countries towards the Community

For travel of this nature, the exemption:

  • is to apply to goods in travellers' personal luggage *, provided that they are imports having no commercial character * and that their total value does not exceed EUR 175 per person;
  • may be reduced to EUR 90 for travellers under 15 years old.

Travel between Member States

For travel of this nature, the exemption:

  • shall apply to goods in travellers' personal luggage which fulfil the conditions laid down in Articles 9 and 10 of the Treaty on European Union and have been acquired in accordance with the general conditions of taxation in force on the domestic market of a Member State, provided that such imports have no commercial character and that the total value of the goods does not exceed EUR 600 per person;
  • may be reduced to EUR 150 for travellers under 15 years old.

Where the total value per person of several items exceeds the amount fixed per person, exemption up to these amounts shall be granted for such of the items as would, if imported separately, have been granted exemption, it being understood that the value of an individual item cannot be split up.

When the travel:

  • includes transit through territory of a third country (overflying without landing shall not, however, be regarded as transit within the meaning of this Directive)
  • begins in a part of the territory of another Member State in which turnover tax and/or excise duty is not chargeable on goods consumed within that territory,
  • the traveller must be able to establish that the goods transported in his luggage have been acquired subject to the general conditions governing taxation on the domestic market of a Member State and do not qualify for any refunding of turnover tax and/or excise duty.

Every two years, and for the first time on 31 October 1987 at the latest, the Council, acting in accordance with the procedures provided for by the Treaty on this point, is to adjust the amounts of the exemptions in order to maintain their genuine value.

Determining the exemption, quantitative limits and exemptions

The value of personal effects that are imported temporarily or are re-imported following their temporary export shall not be taken into consideration for determining the exemption.

Quantitative import limits for exemptions from tax are fixed by the European Community for tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, perfume, coffee and tea. These limits vary depending on whether they come under travel between third countries and the Community, or between Member States. The exemption for tobacco products and alcoholic beverages shall not be granted to travellers under 17 years of age. The exemptions for coffee shall not be granted to travellers under 15 years of age.

Member States are permitted, subject to certain conditions, to derogate from granting the exemption and set lower limits as to value and/or quantities for the exemption of goods.

Ireland and Denmark enjoy special derogations. Finland, until 31 December 2007, is authorised to apply a quantitative limit of not less than sixteen litres to imports of beer from countries that are not Member States.

Key terms used in the act
  • personal luggage: personal luggage should be understood to mean the whole of the luggage which a traveller is in a position to submit to the customs authorities on his arrival, as well as that which he presents at a later date to the sane customs authorities, subject to proof that such luggage was registered as accompanied luggage, at the time of his departure, with the company responsible for conveying him. The definition of personal luggage shall not cover portable containers containing fuel. However, for each means of motor transport a quantity of fuel not exceeding 10 litres shall be admitted duty-free in such a container, without prejudice to national provisions governing the possession and transport of fuel.
  • imports having no commercial character: Imports shall be regarded as having no commercial character if they:
- are carried out on an occasional basis, and
- consist exclusively of goods for the personal or family use of the travellers, or of goods intended as presents; the nature or quantity of such goods must not be such as might indicate that they are being imported for commercial reasons.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 69/169/EEC29.05.196901.01.1970OJ L 133 of 04.06.1969
Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 72/230/EEC14.06.197201.07.1972
OJ L 139 of 17.06.1972
Directive 78/1032/EEC22.12.197801.01.1979OJ L 366 of 28.12.1978
Directive 78/1033/EEC22.12.197801.01.1979OJ L 366 of 28.12.1978
Directive 82/443/EEC05.07.198201.01.1983
DK: 01.01.1984
OJ L 206 of 14.07.1982
Directive 85/348/EEC11.07.198501.10.1985OJ L 183 of 16.07.1985
Directive 88/664/EEC23.12.198830.06.1989OJ L 382 of 31.12.1988
Directive 89/220/EEC14.03.198901.07.1989OJ L 92 of 05.04.1989
Directive 91/191/EEC08.04.199101.07.1991
OJ L 94 of 16.04.1991
Directive 91/673/EEC24.12.199131.12.1991OJ L 373 of 31.12.1991
Directive 91/680/EEC23.12.199101.01.1993OJ L 376 of 31.12.1991
Directive 92/12/EEC06.03.199201.01.1993OJ L 76 of 23.03.1992
Directive 92/111/EEC30.12.199201.01.1993
OJ L 384 of 30.12.1992
Directive 94/4/EC03.03.199401.04.1994
DE: 01.01.1998
OJ L 60 of 03.03.1994
Directive 2000/47/EC31.07.2000-OJ L 193 of 29.07.2000
Directive 2005/93/EC29.12.200531.12.2005OJ L 346 of 29.12.2005
OJ L 175M of 29.06.2006

Last updated: 03.07.2007
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