Buying alcohol when travelling abroad
When returning from a trip abroad, there are no charges on alcohol you bring in for private use. The quantity of alcohol you can bring in without paying any charges depends on where you buy the alcohol (i.e. another EU country or a country outside the EU).
There are some rules you must obey no matter where you buy the alcohol:
- You must be at least 20 years old.
- The alcohol must be for your or your family’s¹ private use.
- You must transport (or carry) the alcohol yourself.
From another EU country
From a country outside the EU
How much alcohol may I bring back?
For your/your family’s¹ private use.
Do I have to pay any charges on the alcohol?
Only if you want to bring in more than the quantities of alcohol above.
Bringing in alcohol from another EU country
If you buy alcohol in another EU country, you can bring in the quantity of alcohol that is regarded as being for your/your family’s¹ private use.
In assessing whether the alcohol is for your/your family’s¹ private use, Swedish Customs uses, amongst other things, the following levels²:
- 10 litres of spirits
- 90 litres of wine
- 20 litres of fortified wine
- 110 litres of beer
If the quantity of alcohol you are bringing in is above these levels, it is you who has to show that the quantity is reasonable for your/your family’s¹ private use.
The quantity of alcohol is not the sole determiner used by customs officers in assessing whether the alcohol is really intended for your private use. Swedish Customs assesses all the circumstances. Nonetheless, in a number of decisions, Sweden’s administrative courts have stated that the quantity of alcohol is an important criterion in assessing whether alcohol is intended for private use.
If a customs officer stops you at the border and assesses that the alcohol you have with you is not for your private use, there is a suspicion of smuggling and the alcohol may be confiscated. If smuggling cannot be substantiated, the prosecutor may end the investigation or the court may dismiss the charge. Confiscation of the goods is then annulled. On annulment of the confiscation, Swedish Customs may seize the alcohol for a tax investigation and debiting of alcohol tax.
Alternatively, under the act (1998:506) on excise duty checks on consignments, etc. of alcoholic goods, tobacco products and energy products, the alcohol may be seized for a tax investigation at the beginning.
Note that, at the border, it is the individual customs officer who assesses the reasonability of considering the alcohol as being for private use.
¹ Family is those closest to you and living in the same home (e.g. wife or husband). In this connection, Swedish Customs refers to a decision of the Skåne and Blekinge appeal court (case number B2328-04, 20 April 2006). In the absence of a ruling from Sweden’s supreme court, said decision is regarded as precedential.
² Lag (1994:1564) om alkoholskatt (the Swedish Act on Excise Duty on Alcohol).
Bringing in alcohol from a country outside the EU
If you buy alcohol from a country outside the EU, or from an area outside the EU’s fiscal territory, you may only bring in a certain quantity (per person) without paying any charges.
- 1 litre of spirits or 2 litres of fortified wine (sparkling wines included therein)
- 4 litres of wine
- 16 litres of strong beer
If you are resident in Sweden, the right to bring alcohol into Sweden without paying charges is conditional on you being abroad for more than 20 hours or making the return journey with an aircraft on a commercial flight.
If you wish to bring in alcohol above the charge-free quantity, you must pay customs duty, VAT and any other taxes on the excess alcohol. You must also declare the alcohol to Swedish Customs by choosing the red lane when crossing the border.
On any alcohol above the charge-free quantity that you bring in from a country outside the EU, you must pay customs duty, VAT and Swedish alcohol tax.
- Spirits: customs duty, SEK 4 per litre; tax, SEK 262 per litre.
- Fortified wine: customs duty, SEK 2 per litre; tax, SEK 81 per litre.
- Wine: customs duty, SEK 1 per litre; tax, SEK 36 per litre.
- Strong beer: customs duty, SEK 3 per litre; tax, SEK 20 per litre.
If you wish to bring in alcohol above the charge-free quantity from outside the EU’s fiscal territory (e.g. from Åland or the Canary Isles), you only have to pay Swedish alcohol tax.
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