I am travelling to UK on Business Visa with 2 laptops, 1 work laptop and other is my personal laptop from India. Is it allowed to take 2 laptops to UK and vice versa or do I need to pay any customs duty?

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    It's not only allowed, but to be expected. No worries. – CGCampbell Sep 30 '15 at 18:40

Unlike India, the UK (and the European Union as whole) has no hard and fast rule on the number of electronic items you may carry with you. What's allowed is the following:

  • Taking personal effects that you need for the duration of your trip across the border, especially if you are not a resident.
  • Importing things that are worth up to GBP 390 tax and duty-free (except a few things like alcohol and tobacco for which there are special rules).
  • Importing much anything, provided you declare the goods as appropriate (except fresh foodstuff, forbidden drugs or weapons, etc.).

In practice, having two used laptops with you as a businessman is a non-issue. Also, for really expensive professional equipment, there are procedures (e.g. the ATA carnet) to provide guarantees that you are not going to import it illegally. What matters here however is the purpose (temporary import), not the value or number of items per se.

By contrast, carrying 3-4 identical laptops could raise concern (e.g. that you do not really intend to take them back with you but will sell them or even give them away, which is not allowed if the total value is over the threshold). Similarly, if you were a resident that just went shopping abroad, even a single brand new laptop worth more than the threshold would have to be taxed.

And note that the rules imply that any item being used permanently in the EU must have been declared and/or taxed at some point (when it was imported, when it was purchased or perhaps as part of a move). It doesn't matter whether you had only one item when crossing the border or were not detected at that moment, if you own a laptop whose serial number identifies as originating abroad and you can't prove you imported it properly, you can still be taxed many months/years later.

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  • @chx From the word “import” in the relevant EU directive. Travelling with an expensive bag is not importing it. But it's true it's difficult to find an official source spelling this out clearly. – Relaxed Oct 1 '15 at 10:10

The part in "Taking personal effects that you need for the duration of your trip across the border" in @Relaxed 's answer is not sourced (and it's clearly written from memory as we will see because the official wording is different) and it really needs to be because it's really hard to find. For example, the Travelling to the UK leaflet doesn't contain anything about it -- that leaflet only mentions the duty free limit which is not relevant for our case. Similarly, starting from the Entering the UK page you won't easily find these regulations.

But a little digging finds Notice 3: bringing your belongings and private motor vehicle to the UK from outside the EC says

You can claim TI relief for personal effects reasonably required for a journey such as clothing, toiletries, personal jewellery and other articles clearly of a personal nature including pets. An illustrative list of eligible goods is given in our Notice 200 Temporary Importations. You can claim relief for your period of stay in the EC up to a maximum of 24 months."

Notice 200 4.3 is

Travellers personal effects reasonably required for a journey

And in "Conditions of relief" we find:

Applicants must be travellers who are not normally resident in the EU

But I have not found an "illustrative goods" in Notice 200. I continued with the referred "Commission Regulation 2454/93 Articles 232(1)(a), 236(A)(1) and 563" at http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/resources/documents/customs/procedural_aspects/general/regulation_2454_93_en.pdf but there's nothing further. (Probably for the better, what a nightmare would it be if the EU declared in 1993 what's reasonable and would need to update it every single time a new technical innovation comes to market!)

We can conclude that the original question is not answered in law and will be up to the customs officer to interpret whether two laptops are 'reasonably required". Since you can give a reasonable explanation this is likely.

In my original answer, I have mentioned that I crossed the customs borders of Canada, USA, UK, EU countless times with two (sometimes even three) laptops and noone bat an eye.

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  • I've also found this page justlanded.com/english/United-Kingdom/Articles/Visas-Permits/… which states that the rules are/were if the the item was for personal use and remaining less than 24 months. They don't refence where they got that from though (and all the links are to outdate HMRC pages – CMaster Oct 1 '15 at 10:23
  • That is not an official page and if it links to HMRC then it's outdated too. Added the 24 months, it was the next sentence after the quote from Notice 3. – chx Oct 1 '15 at 10:26
  • I meant HMCE, which means definitley old. I presumed they had got it from somewhere offical and was trying to find the source however – CMaster Oct 1 '15 at 10:29
  • (+1) Thanks for all the links you found! The wording I used is a layman's summary but am not sure I see anything materially different in your answer. The point is that the threshold is for things you are importing and the question is whether you can credibly claim that it's not what you are doing. Customs officers have some discretion when determining whether they believe you but if they do, the threshold simply does not apply (judging by your earlier answer, that's the bit that initially confused you). – Relaxed Oct 1 '15 at 12:59
  • Wikipedia would put a [citation needed] on your answer. – chx Oct 1 '15 at 17:53

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