SAS Vins de Gascogne (trading as Gascony Wines) is a French business which reaches out to wine lovers in the UK. Our growers’ businesses are all French and the point of sale is in France. Hence France is where we pay our taxes and our duty.
One of the advantages of living in France is that wine is so much cheaper than in the UK. One reason is that there are so many local suppliers in France – we could go to our local wine co-operative with a plastic bottle and fill it from a wine petrol pump. It’s cheaper than buying fresh milk.
But the biggest reason wine is cheaper in France is because of duty. In France the duty on wine is about 2p per 75cl bottle compared to about £2.60 in the UK. Both countries apply VAT/TVA at 20% on top of the cost of wine and duty, so the price difference per bottle between the UK and France is around £3.12 in tax and duty.
If you, as a UK buyer, turn up at a French vineyard in your car, you can buy wine directly at French prices. You do not have to pay any UK Excise Duty.
On your return to the UK, when you pass through Customs you can import up to 90 litres per adult for personal consumption in the UK without being liable to pay any UK Excise Duty. If you want to import more wine for personal consumption, you need to provide a form of proof. It is then up to the UK Customs (HMRC) who will determine whether there is an Excise duty payable on the wine.
The type of wine you import may also affect the amount you are able to bring in to the UK Excise Duty free. For example, you can only bring in 60 litres of sparkling wine. There are also restrictions on spirits.
The above arrangements apply if you turn up at the grower’s door and load the boot of your car, but what if you buy remotely and arrange for the same quantity of wine to be transported to your home for you? This is called buying your wine “ex-duty”.
Things may change with Brexit, but at present the rules are governed by European regulations. The European guidelines concerning the importation of wines and spirits were left deliberately vague so that each member state could interpret them as it felt appropriate.
Britain’s HMRC has interpreted that it wishes to impose UK duty on alcohol imports if you are not travelling with your alcohol purchases. In practice, however, this is rarely enforced unless the quantities of wine exceed the limits for personal consumption.
We have to point out that technically you may be liable to pay UK duty upon the wine’s arrival into the UK, even though this is rarely enforced. The best way to look at this is to factor in an extra £2.60 per bottle for duty and £0.52 VAT just in case Customs do present you with an invoice. However, even with duty, the wines still offer excellent value for the quality.
How it works in practice is as follows:
- Through our website you select your wines and purchase them online in the normal way from our French retail outlet – your card payment is taken in France by the retail outlet’s bank.
- The wine order is assembled and our retail outlet completes a CERFA tax declaration form which identifies the quantity of wine and its UK recipient. This declaration form is sent to the French tax authorities and is also attached to the wine consignment.
- Having completed all the legal requirements, the wine is despatched to the UK recipient, and the French tax authorities send the declaration form to HMRC in the UK.
At this stage, even though it rarely does so, HMRC is within its rights to send you an invoice for the extra UK tax and duty. To minimise the risk of this happening, make sure that you operate within the 90 litre import limit which is allowable to those who load their own car boot. But it is always sensible to factor in an extra £2.60 per bottle for duty and £0.52 VAT just in case Customs do present you with an invoice. With a bit of luck, you can always use it for a subsequent order!