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Travellers leaving the EU-

Visitors from outside the EU are entitled to get a refund of VAT paid on goods they have purchased during their stay in the EU provided that the goods are produced to Customs on departure from the EU together with the VAT refund documents. These documents are normally prepared by the merchant from whom the goods have been purchased, and the refund is made directly by the merchant, rather than the customs service.

In many countries, commercial firms act as agents for the merchants. Generally, merchants or the commercial companies charge for this service by making a deduction from the refund. As the refund scheme is voluntary, travelers should check that the merchant participates in the scheme before the goods are purchased.

  • Visitors must provide proof of their residence status (e.g. non-EU passport)
  • Goods must be exported from the EU within 3 months of their purchase

Travelers holding a valid ticket for a destination outside the EU (and certain areas within the EU, such as the Canary Islands) can buy goods free of duty and tax in so-called "tax-free shops" in airports and ports. There are no limits as to the quantity or value of the goods that can be purchased duty and tax free. Travelers should however bear in mind that the importation of these goods in the country of destination will be subject to duty and tax allowances, similar to those applying to travelers that enter the EU from a non Member State.

As from 15 June 2007, travellers entering or leaving the EU and carrying 10 000 or more in cash (or its equivalent in other currencies or easily convertible assets such as cheques drawn on a third party) have to make a declaration to the customs authorities.

This follows the entry into force of a new European Regulation aimed at fighting money laundering, and the financing of terrorism. Customs authorities are empowered under the Regulation to undertake controls on individuals, their baggage and their means of transport and detain cash that has not been declared.

Travelers must be aware that all Member States apply penalties in the event of failure to comply with the obligation to declare as laid down in the Regulation. Some Member States may apply additional measures according to their national legislation (e.g. intra-community cash controls).

There are no limits on what private persons can buy and take with them when they travel between EU countries, as long as the products purchased are for personal use and not for resale, with exception of new means of transport. Taxes (VAT and excise) will be included in the price of the products in the Member State of purchase and no further payment of taxes can be due in any other Member State.

However, special rules apply in the case of goods subject to excise duty, such as alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. If a private person purchases such products in one Member State and takes them to another Member State, the principle that no excise duty has to be paid in the Member State of destination only applies if the goods are

  • for the own use of the traveler or his family and
  • transported by himself.

To determine whether these products are for the own use of the traveler, Member States must take account of all the relevant factors. These include:

  • The commercial status of the holder of the products and his reasons for holding them;
  • The place where the products are located or, if appropriate, the mode of transport used;
  • Any document relating to the products;
  • The nature of the products;
  • The quantity of the products.

As to the last element, Member States may lay down guide levels, solely as a form as evidence, which cannot be lower than the following quantities:

  • cigarettes 800 items
  • cigarillos (cigars weighing not more than 3 g each) 400 items
  • cigars 200 items
  • smoking tobacco 1.0 kg
  • spirit drinks 10 litres
  • intermediate products 20 litres
  • wines (including a maximum of 60 litres of sparkling wines) 90 litres
  • beers 110 litres

The above rules for tobacco products already apply to Malta, Cyprus, the Czech Republic as well as to Slovenia.

But Member States may apply special transitional arrangements for travelers returning from the other new Member States that joined the EU on 1 May 2004, for as long as these new Member States have not reached the minimum level of taxation for cigarettes or other tobacco products.

The following Member States have introduced such restrictions: Austria, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, France and Ireland.


200 cigarettes
250g Tobacco for rolling cigarettes

End of 2009
End of 2009


200 cigarettes

End of 2008


200 cigarettes

End of 2009


200 cigarettes

End of 2009


200 cigarettes

End of 2008


200 cigarettes

End of 2008







Member States were also allowed to apply special transitional arrangements for travelers returning from the new Member States that joined the EU on 1 January 2007 as long as these new Member States have not reached the minimum level of taxation for cigarettes.

The following Member States have notified the Commission that they introduced on 1 January 2007 a restriction of 200 cigarettes for travelers coming from Bulgaria and Romania until 31 December 2009:

Germany; the United Kingdom; Denmark and Hungary.

All EU citizens who either return directly from Bulgaria or Rumania to one of the above mentioned Member States or via one of these Member States (for example in land travel via Hungary) need to observe the limit.

Where new means of transport are purchased in another Member State, special rules apply, and the purchase is taxable in the Member State of registration of the means of transport, rather than the Member State in which it is purchased.

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