French Customs/VAT When Bringing Items to Your Second Home


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French Customs/VAT When Bringing Items to Your Second Home

Prior to Brexit, many French second-home owners benefitted from the free flow of goods between the UK and France. Perhaps you took advantage of the more affordable prices of paint and DIY supplies in the UK, stocked up on cheap wine during your trips to France, or scoured second-hand stores in both countries to find the cheapest prices on furniture and homeware essentials.

Unfortunately, since Brexit, all items brought into France from the UK are now subject to non-EU customs laws, meaning that both new purchases and second-hand items may be liable for VAT and customs duties. Here’s what you need to know.

Purchasing new items for your second home in France

If you plan on bringing items to your second home, depending on the origin of the items and their total value, you may need to fill out a customs declaration, and you might also need to pay additional VAT and customs duties in order to “import” the items to France. Let’s break down the details.

Does my duty-free allowance cover furniture, building supplies, and other household purchases? 

Our guide to Post-Brexit Customs Restrictions & Allowances Between France and the UK covers the basics on what has changed since Brexit, including the restricted items that can no longer be bought into France (such as meat products and plants) and the duty-free allowances in place for new items.

Under these laws, travellers from the UK to France benefit from a personal allowance or “franchise douanière” of €430 (if arriving by plane/ship) or €300 (if arriving by car or train), meaning that they don’t need to declare goods purchased as long as they add up to this amount or less per person (*NOTE that if you arrive by car on a ferry, you will be counted as travelling by car, not ship).

However, a major caveat is that these rules generally apply to travellers purchasing gifts, luxury purchases, and souvenirs during their visit – the personal allowance does not apply to items of a commercial nature. This is where things get a little bit complicated – while you might not consider buying household items or furniture as “commercial” (especially if you’re not planning on selling them on!), these items are not typical traveller purchases and, therefore, may not always be covered by the personal allowance.

You should, therefore, declare these items on arrival in France, and they may be subject to additional taxes and duties (more on this in a moment). Customs officials will be to assess which items do fall under your duty-free allowance and which do not.

How to declare new items purchased to French customs

When arriving in France, you should declare to the French customs officers all newly purchased items that go over your personal allowance or may be counted as commercial in nature. They will give you a declaration form to fill in and will calculate any taxes and duties owed.

Note that filling in a declaration form does not automatically mean that you will have to pay taxes and customs duties – you will not be charged for eligible items that fall under your personal allowance, even if you choose to declare them.

Remember to save all the original receipts from your purchases, as you will need them for your declaration.

Bringing second-hand items to France after Brexit

The second scenario for second-home owners is where you wish to bring second-hand goods, either items from your own home or items that you have purchased second-hand in the UK.

As a traveller to France, you can, of course, bring your personal items and belongings with you, and no taxes or duties will be due for any items deemed reasonable items for a traveller to bring on a trip. Therefore, you probably wouldn’t need to worry much about small household items and personal items – the kinds of things you might be expected to use during a short stay at your second home.

If you are bringing these kinds of items, you can use the ‘nothing to declare’ lane on arrival in France and do not need to worry about declaring them.

However, larger items such as furniture, household goods, and tools may not fall under this rule. Once again, items that may be seen as “commercial in nature” or second-hand purchases over your personal allowance may be subject to taxes and duties.

You should declare these items on arrival in France, and you will need to fill out an itemised and valued inventory. If you have receipts or invoices, it’s a good idea to have these on hand, and you should also carry proof of your property in France.

There is also an exception for items that will be temporarily imported to France – for example, tools or equipment that you will be using for a renovation but then returning to the UK. You will need to fill in this declaration form.

Moving to France: customs exceptions for personal belongings

It’s important to note that there is an important exception to importing personal items and belongings if you are moving to France. If you have been resident in the UK and have owned the items in question for more than six months, you will not be subject to taxes and customs duties when relocating to France. However, in order to benefit from this waiver, it is essential to have a fully itemised and valued inventory, and all the necessary paperwork in order. You can find out more about this in our guide to Removals to France After Brexit: What You Need to Know About Customs & Duties.

How much is VAT and customs duties when bringing household items to France?

New and second-hand items purchased in the UK and brought into France that go over your personal allowance may be subject to both taxes (VAT) and customs duties.

According to France’s Brexit customs guide (which you can find here – scroll down for the English version): “The trade and cooperation agreement between the UK and the European Union allows a free customs duties importation if the product is of UK origin, but does not allow a VAT’s exoneration.”

This means that customs duties are not typically charged if the item in question originated in the UK. If the item is under €1,200 in value, then a verbal declaration that the item is of UK origin will suffice; for any item over this, you will need to present a statement of origin from the seller.

For items that originate in a non-EU and non-UK country, customs duties of up to 22% may be due.

Generally, French VAT (known as TVA in France) will be applicable at 20% (although there are reduced rates for certain items) – yes, even if you have already paid UK VAT on the item at purchase.

The easiest way to estimate the taxes and duties due on your items is to use the Declare Douane customs simulator – simply enter all the details of your items, and you will be given an estimation of how much will be owed. Remember, this is only a simulation; it is not the definitive bill – that can only be issued by customs officers upon arrival in France.

On arrival in France, you can pay the charges on arrival by card, cheque or cash (payments under €1,000 only).

Do you have a specific enquiry regarding French customs/VAT?

The Brexit customs guide here (scroll down for the English version) has the answers to many questions. For more specific questions and advice, you can call French customs on 0800 94 40 40 or +33 1 72 40 78 50 from overseas.

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  •  Lisa C
    2024-04-05 07:22:11
    Lisa C
    We are thinking about buying a kitchenette here in the UK and having it moved over to France by a removal company, if the items were purchased over 6 months prior and we had paperwork to prove it would we be exempt from paying customs fees/taxes?


    • Zoë Smith
      2024-04-05 14:39:31
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Lisa, If you purchase the kitchenette six months in advance of moving permanently to France, then this could absolutely be declared as part of your personal belongings. But this option is of course, only available if you are relocating from the UK to France. Kind regards, Zoe


  •  Jo Cutting
    2024-03-03 06:52:05
    Jo Cutting
    This is really useful. Thank you. I am looking to take some new items out via the channel tunnel for our apartment which is having some renovation work done. What is not clear is whether duty is paid on the value of the total items added together or only individual items over €300. We will be taking a lot of stuff with a value of force €1200, but only 1 item is over €300. Are you able to clarify? Also when the train on Eurotunnel arrives in France we get off and go straight onto the motorway. Presumably we need to declare items when we go to French customs in the uk? Any advice would be gratefully received.


    • Zoë Smith
      2024-03-21 13:05:23
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Jo, The €300 is the total amount that you are allowed without paying duties - anything over this will potentially be subject to tax and duties. You will typically declare this on arrival and it's a good idea to prepare receipts/proof of purchase. Kind regards, Zoe


  • David Wallman-Durrant
    2024-01-11 04:08:36
    David Wallman-Durrant
    My sister in law who lives in France recently visited us in the UK but unfortunately left her hearing aid behind. I attempted to post this back to her in France but the parcel was returned to me from customs with a note saying that insufficient taxes had been paid. Is this correct ? Are taxes due on a personal item belonging to the recipient ?


  •  Dominic
    2023-12-11 04:19:29
    If you have to pay French VAT are you then able to reclaim VAT paid in the UK?