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IP/06/238

Brussels, 27 February 2006

Travellers’ allowances: Commission proposes changes to the benefit of citizens

The Commission has adopted a proposal renewing the provisions on travellers' allowances as from 1/1/2007. Traveller's allowances are the monetary thresholds or the quantitative limits which travellers entering the EU from third countries are allowed to import duty free. The main component of the proposal is to increase the benefit current monetary threshold of € 175 to € 500 for air travellers and to € 220 for other travellers. For the citizen, this proposal will not only provide benefits in terms of increased monetary thresholds but will also avoid inconvenience in declaring goods of relatively limited value. At the same time, it will reduce the administrative burdens for Member States in collecting relatively small amounts of duty. The proposal also contains other adjustments to reflect the position today.

"Many of the rules regarding travellers' allowances, which were set down in a directive adopted in 1969, are no longer relevant in today's world and that is why we have come forward with this proposal" said Taxation Commissioner László Kovács. "Citizens will benefit from the increased monetary threshold and Member States will reduce administrative costs in collecting import duties of a relatively limited value.”

The proposal will introduce the following changes:

  • To increase the current monetary threshold of € 175 to € 500 for air travellers and to € 220 for other travellers. The lower threshold for non-air travellers takes account of the special situation of Member States that have land borders with countries where prices are significantly lower.
  • To abolish the quantitative limits on perfume, coffee and tea.
  • To introduce a new quantitative limit on beer, which is currently the only alcoholic beverage without such a limit.
  • Gives the Member States the option of reducing the quantitative limits on tobacco products in order to support their health policies.

Background

The current Directive 69/169/EEC was adopted in 1969 but has undergone a number of amendments, the last of which was made in 1994 when the monetary threshold was increased to €175. This threshold does not include excise goods, such as alcohol and tobacco, which are subject to quantitative limits, i.e. one litre of spirits, 200 cigarettes and so on. Enforcement of these rules by the Member States is obligatory.

It has been taken into account that the administrative cost and resources required in controlling and collecting import duty on goods having a value of €175 or less is disproportionate to the actual tax involved. It also inconveniences travellers' in declaring goods of relatively small value. Instead, it is argued that those resources could be put to far better use in tackling serious smuggling and fraud. Therefore, an increase in the threshold is justified. However, account also needs to be taken of the situation concerning Member States with third country land borders where a significant increase in the threshold could lead to increased cross-border shopping. Different thresholds depending on the mode of transport are, therefore, proposed which will benefit both the citizen and the Member States.

Opportunity has also been taken to review and update other aspects of the current directive:

Abolition of the quantitative limits on perfume, coffee and tea. This reflects the fact that these goods are either no longer taxed as they were in 1969, or are taxed in only a few Member States. Instead, these goods will simply be counted in the monetary threshold.

Introduction of a new quantitative limit on beer. Although alcoholic beverages are subject to the quantitative limits, this is not the case for beer, which is current counted in the monetary threshold. Following difficulties that some Member States have with travellers importing large quantities of beer, and for which special rules are currently applied, it is proposed to subject beer to similar quantitative limits.

Introduction of new rules on tobacco quantitative limits. Member States will now have the freedom to reduce the quantitative limits that individuals may import in order to support their health policies.
Further information on the current travellers' allowances is available on the following website:
http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/common/legislation/proposals/taxation/index_en.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/common/travellers/enter_eu/index_en.htm


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