I don’t know about you, but I like to bring an empty duffle bag with me when I go to Italy. No, silly, I don’t mean I travel with an empty bag – I mean that in addition to the stuff I packed, I often also bring an empty bag so I have room for all the goodies I’m planning to buy while I’m in Italy. (As you can probably guess, the words “carry-on only” remain little-used in my vocabulary.)
Lots of people take the opportunity to shop while on vacation in Italy, and while there’s technically no limit to what you can spend – there is a limit to what you can spend duty-free. What is that limit, you ask? Well, I’m here to tell you. Because the last thing you need on your return home is a big tax bill waiting for you just because you picked up that one extra bottle of limoncello in Amalfi…
The duty-free exemption amount varies depending on the country you’re from, and I’m not covering every country here – so if your country isn’t listed, you can either do an online search for the name of your country and the words “duty free exemption” or you can leave a comment on this post and I’ll see if I can find it for you. The first option will, I can almost guarantee, be quicker for you – but hey, if you wanna chat, that’s fine, too.
There’s information below for:
- Duty Free Exemption Amounts for U.S. Citizens Traveling in Italy
- Duty Free Exemption Amounts for E.U. Citizens Traveling in Italy
- Duty Free Exemption Amounts for Canadian Citizens Traveling in Italy
- Duty Free Exemption Amounts for Australian Citizens Traveling in Italy
>> And in case you’re interested in getting some of that Italian tax you paid on your goodies refunded to you before you leave the country, here’s how to get a VAT refund in Italy. Be warned, it’s not a simple process.
Individuals may bring up to US$800 of goods for personal consumption or gifts (i.e. not for resale) from Italy back into the U.S. This only includes stuff you’re bringing back with you – so anything you shipped to the U.S. from Italy doesn’t count in this US$800 limit. Within this US$800 limit, there are separate limits on the amount of alcohol and tobacco you can bring back. You are limited to one liter of alcohol and no more than 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars.
In order to avoid paying duty on your allotted amount, you have to have been out of the U.S. for at least 48 hours and also you can’t have used your US$800 duty-free allowance in the past 30 days (in other words, if you went to France ten days ago and used US$200 of your duty-free allowance, your trip to Italy ten days later would leave you with US$600 left of duty-free goods you could bring back).
One great bit of news for traveling families is that you can make a joint declaration with a grand total of US$1600 worth of goods, no matter who bought what. If the wife bought a US$1000 Prada handbag and the husband spend US$600 on Armani shoes, together they’re at US$1600 and that’s duty free. Another perk of traveling with the family is that even children and infants get their own US$800 worth of duty-free stuff they can bring back. So Mom’s US$400 Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses can go on that same joint declaration as the US$1600 of stuff declared earlier, leaving US$400 left over for things that Junior might actually get to use himself. The only thing is that the alcohol and tobacco amounts don’t apply to the wee ones.
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If you’re a citizen of an EU country other than Italy and you’re visiting Italy on holiday, the bottom line is this – you can shop to your heart’s content. There are, as the EU’s website puts it, “no limits on what you can buy and take with you when you travel between EU countries, as long as it is for personal use and not for resale.” Of course, this is because you’re paying taxes on the stuff you’re buying as you’re buying it – the VAT & whatnot – but still.
One note about VAT is that because it varies by country and isn’t set by the EU, if the country you’re a citizen of has a lower VAT than Italy you can take advantage of the limit-free shopping opportunities to buy things that would be more expensive back home. A list of the VAT rates of EU countries is here so you can compare.
In order to make sure the things you’re buying are for personal use and not resale – without checking every single traveler’s bags at those borders that sort of don’t exist anymore – the EU has set limits on the amount of alcohol and tobacco you can bring back. Each person is limited to 800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars, 1 kg of tobacco, 10 liters of spirits, 20 liters of fortified wine (like port or sherry), 90 liters of wine (a maximum of 60 liters of which can be sparkling wine), and 110 liters of beer. With those amounts, I like the way the EU thinks about “personal consumption.”
>> For more information, see the EU’s website.
The amount of duty-free stuff you can bring back to Canada from Italy depends on how long you’ve been out of Canada. There are exemption amounts for trips outside Canada of more than 24 hours and more than 48 hours, but let’s assume you fall into the 7-day exemption category (I really hope you are, because a 2-day trip to Italy just doesn’t sound like much fun to me). If you need more details on trips of other durations, you can get them here.
With a trip to Italy from Canada of seven or more days, each individual traveler can claim up to CAN$750 of goods. You don’t need to be carrying the items they’re declaring in order to include them in the declaration – so if you shipped something home to Canada from Italy, that counts, too. Each person gets a CAN$750 exemption, but it doesn’t matter if you’re traveling with your family – you can’t combine exemptions to cover one big purchase. If you’re traveling with kids, they do get to declare CAN$750 worth of stuff, but it has to be stuff that’s actually for their use, not yours.
There are limits on the amount of alcohol and tobacco that can be included in that CAN$750, but unlike the rest of the stuff you’re declaring you do have to have these things with you – you can’t have shipped them home. With regard to alcohol, each person can bring one of the following things back into Canada duty-free: 1.5 liters of wine, 1.14 liters of liquor, a total of 1.14 liters of wine and liquor (in any combination), or a maximum of 8.5 liters of beer or ale (24 12-oz cans or bottles). With regard to tobacco, you’re not limited to choosing one thing off this list – you can bring back all of these at once: 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or cigarillos, 200 grams of manufactured tobacco, and 200 tobacco sticks.
>> For more information, see the duty-free limits for Canada on this website.
There are a few categories of goods which must be declared when returning to Australia from Italy. There are general goods (gifts, souvenirs, electronics, leather, perfume, jewellry, stuff purchased at a duty-free shop, etc.), alcohol, and tobacco. But things like new shoes, clothes, or “articles for personal hygiene and grooming” (this doesn’t include perfumes) aren’t included in these categories. In other words, you can buy as much as you want of that stuff and not only not worry about being under the duty-free exemption limit with it, you don’t even have to declare it. Just pack it in your suitcase and go on your merry way.
For the stuff you do have to declare, you get to bring home AUS$900 worth of general goods (if you’re 18 or over; under 18 and you get AUS$450 worth of general goods); 2.25 liters of alcohol (again, if you’re over 18; under 18 and you don’t get an alcohol allowance); and 250 cigarettes, 250 grams of cigars or tobacco products (same over-18-only rule applies here, too).
Families traveling together are allowed to combine their duty-free allowances, so an individual in that case could go over his or her limit without penalty (so long as every family member didn’t do the same).
>> For more information, see the Australian customs website.