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I assume of course that laws will differ by country, and I'm interested in those differences, though there should be some common aspects.

There are several layers to my question.

We agree that your friend can bring you a gift from his homeland, as long as it complies with custom rules.

Now can your friend legally sell it back to you at the price he bought it ?

This product may sometimes be available in your country, but at higher price, does it change anything ?

Can your friend legally sell it back to you at a higher price, making some pocket money out of it ?

Now what if he's not a friend, but a stranger, or someone you got acquainted with online, is it considered contraband? (assuming everything is ok with customs at the airport).

Does it change anything if it's done between European Union countries?

Does it change anything if it's recurrent ? e.g. say this guys comes every month from Russia to France for unrelated business, each time he fills up his luggage with the maximum allowed amount of goods that comply with custom laws, and I buy them, giving him 15% of margin, is that OK?

  • In the EU there exists a concept of free circulation of goods. – ratchet freak Feb 9 '16 at 12:04
  • Importing merchandise is a legitimate business for most of the world. The question seems to be what steps are needed (for the Russia to France path?) to for the importer to first be established as a business, and in an ongoing way comply with taxes, import duties and import documentation. – user662852 Feb 9 '16 at 12:18
  • when I buy things through ebay, I don't need to register as a business, why in this case would one need to ? – Moody_Mudskipper Feb 9 '16 at 13:11
  • What do you mean by "selling back"? Did you own that merchandise before? – gnasher729 Feb 9 '16 at 21:22
  • no, person A buys product for price P, travels internationally, and sells product to person B for price P+. Is it just like buying anything from ebay, or do different laws apply? – Moody_Mudskipper Feb 9 '16 at 21:27
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On the first page of https://www.gov.uk/duty-free-goods/overview you find:

"You can bring some goods from abroad without having to pay UK tax or ‘duty’ (customs charges), as long as they’re for your own use." And on the next page "... will use them yourself or give them away as a gift".

This clearly doesn't cover anything that you bring into the UK to sell it. And a bit further on the site it says "You must tell customs (known as ‘declaring’) on arrival in the UK if you have goods: ... that you plan to sell". Since you are asking here, it is quite obvious that you intend to sell :-)

You said "e.g. say this guys comes every month from Russia to France for unrelated business, each time he fills up his luggage with the maximum allowed amount of goods that comply with custom laws". If this guy sells the stuff to you, then the maximum allowed amount of goods to import without paying taxes is zero. Once he is willing to pay taxes, there is no limit.

Obviously regularly importing things from Russia or France and selling in the UK at a profit means that he is running a business in the UK, which means he would have to register a business, pay corporation taxes etc. It's all a matter of degree; for small amounts nobody cares (up to some limit you don't need to register a business or pay taxes; I don't know the details).

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