UPDATE: This article was updated on October 13, 2022 to reflect the fact that the VAT-free allowance when taking a car on a ferry is €430, not €300.
Reader Question: We have just purchased a second home in France and need to take paint, bedding, etc over. The value will be approx €1,100.
How do we declare this? We've read we have a €600 allowance (€300 each).
Do we just go through the French customs ‘to declare’ section at the Channel Tunnel and pass over the list and then they work out the tax due? How do we pay? Do we need any other paperwork?
Since the UK left the EU, some goods being taken over the Channel to France are subject to customs duties and VAT, with the rules differing depending on whether they are being moved to your primary residence or your second home.
Objects being taken to a main home are generally exempt from VAT and duties but those being taken to a second home – as is the case here – are not.
Your ordinary travel essentials, clothes and toiletries, are unlikely to pose an issue, and if this were all you were bringing with you to France you would most likely take the ‘nothing to declare’ lanes and no questions would be asked.
This is because you are allowed personal luggage whose nature “does not imply commercial purposes”; so if the contents of your suitcases is what the customs officers would expect to see in terms of value and quantity, they should not take issue with it.
Apart from this, the question of VAT and, depending on category of item, customs duties at variable rates (from around zero to 22%), potentially comes up.
Under the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement there are no duties on items coming in that were made in the UK or EU, however proof of this could be asked for. There is also an allowance per person for their goods up to €1,200 in value, so duties are not likely to pose an issue.
As for VAT, bringing items in from the UK can now attract import VAT, though franchises voyageurs (personal allowances) may come into play.
These allowances are:
- €430 per adult if arriving by plane or boat (including a car on a ferry)
- €300 per adult if coming by train or car/van
- €150 per child under 15
The taxes are payable in full on any items taking you above the franchises levels. It should be noted that you cannot combine your individual allowances for a single item valued at €600, for example, although this does not appear to affect you.
The bad news is, however, that The Connexion has previously been told that these allowances were more aimed at returning tourists coming back with UK gifts and souvenirs, luxury purchases etc and are unlikely to be deemed applicable to such items as furniture and DIY materials etc being taken to use in a second home.
However, customs officials will assess whether or not the franchise rule may apply to some of the items you have with you.
As a general rule French VAT is 20% on most items other than, for example, 5.5% on food and books.
There are separate personal allowance VAT limits for cigarettes and alcohol.
How to declare goods over the limit
When you arrive at the port or travel terminal, you must bring with you and show to customs officials three copies of an inventory detailing the goods and a document confirming you have an address in France – such as an energy or taxe foncière bil.
The inventory should show quantities, weight and estimated value; group related items, such as vaisselle (kitchen crockery), meubles (furniture) etc.
While you can give your own estimation of the value of the goods, the customs officer could dispute anything which seems suspicious. Receipts may help, if you have them.
The customs staff will calculate the taxes and duties owed; you do not have to do this.
The charges can be paid by card, by cheque, or by cash if the total is less than €1,000. Further information can be found here.
There is a tax waiver for items (such as DIY or gardening equipment) that are being brought over temporarily before being taken back to the UK within three years, but there is a specific form to be filled in relating to these.
The UK also has its own version to ensure items are not taxed on being taken back to the UK, called applying for Returned Goods Relief.
As mentioned above however, your own personal travel effects should not pose an issue and it should not be necessary to fill anything out with regard to them.
You can find out more about transporting goods into France from the UK in this Douanes guide, or by calling them on 0800 94 40 40 or +33 1 72 40 78 50 from overseas.