Can you buy cheap wine from abroad online?

With the advent of minimum pricing, which prohibits the sale of alcohol at low prices, the cost of your daily or weekly consumption has become relevant again.

Ireland has always been expensive when it comes to buying alcohol. Eurostat figures last year put the state as the most expensive in the EU, at nearly double the EU average, and these new measures have made prices here even higher.

Although the goal of minimum pricing is laudable – the goal is to stop alcohol-related harm – its method has drawn some criticism. So, given the price gap in Ireland and elsewhere, it’s a reasonable question to ask: can you buy booze cheaper online?

And what are the rules about buying alcohol abroad in person?

We all know that if you go on a ‘booze cruise’ in France or drive to Newry or Belfast you will be entitled to a certain amount for personal consumption without being subject to excise duty – but how much?

A trip to a warehouse in Cherbourg or Roscoff allows you to supply your boot free of excise duties:

800 cigarettes

400 cigarillos

200 cigars

1 kg of smoking tobacco

10 liters of spirits (whiskey, gin, vodka, etc.)

20 liters of other alcoholic beverages containing no more than 22% alcohol (e.g. port, sherry and certain liqueurs)

90 liters of wine (of which only 60 liters can be sparkling)

110 liters of beer

According to a spokeswoman for the Revenue Commissioners, the guidelines apply to purchases made in person across the EU and Northern Ireland.

The taxman’s advice on such purchases is that you make it yourself, that the goods should be for your own consumption – not for resale – and that you should keep the corresponding receipts.

What about online?

When it comes to buying online, it’s a whole other proposition. This is because there are rules set out in EU law, which apply throughout the EU, for online purchases of excise goods such as alcohol from another Member State.

In short, this means that online alcohol deliveries are subject to duties. And for people living in Ireland, those rights are high.

Firstly, the rules mean that it is the responsibility of the international seller to appoint a tax agent in Ireland, who takes responsibility for the payment of excise duty due to the tax authorities. This does not always happen, however, and when it does, the responsibility for paying the duties lies with the customer.

To pay this duty, Revenue says the customer can contact them before their wine, beer or spirits are shipped and pay the excise duty involved. If this does not happen, you may not be able to obtain delivery of your goods until the duties are cleared.

According to the spokesperson, where duty has not already been paid by the customer or seller’s tax agent, Revenue will hold the consignment when the goods arrive in Ireland at a port or parcel depot and write to the recipient /customer concerned.

Once you have paid the duties, the goods will be released to you. If you do not pay, the goods will be seized and over time may be destroyed.

In practice, it is unclear whether Revenue can stop all small deliveries. Some people were taken by that customs slip at the door and for others those deliveries were delivered to their wine racks duty free.

What about Northern Ireland/UK?

When it comes to buying online from Northern Ireland, under the terms of Ireland and Northern Ireland protocol, the above also applies. This means that if you buy online from a business in Northern Ireland you should be liable to pay excise duty on the goods.

However, this may be less of an issue, given how easily many people can cross the border to shop.

When it comes to shopping online from a UK seller, everything gets even trickier, given that the UK is now outside the EU. According to Revenue – and as many now know since Brexit – additional customs formalities apply when buying from outside the EU.

A person buying wine online in the UK will first need to complete an import customs declaration and submit it to their home customs authority. The customs authority will then release the products to the importer only when the customs duty (which varies according to the product), the import VAT and the excise duties are paid by the importer.

And in addition to regular excise duty/VAT rates, customs duty may also be payable when importing from the UK. It will probably depend on what is ordered; beer, brandy and gin, for example, are not subject to customs duties, unlike wine, sparkling wine and rum.

Who delivers to Ireland?

Finding an EU based website that delivers to Ireland is not always easy. Formerly, Nicolas (a kind of French O’Briens) delivered for his personal consumption in Ireland. However, it indicates that it has stopped international delivery, and only delivers to France and Corsica.

Similarly, Vinissimus, a Spanish website, tells us that it has stopped delivering to Ireland due to “customs delivery” issues – in other words, with Revenue imposing duty on alcohol delivered to Ireland, it was probably no longer competitive to do so.

A website eyeing the Irish market is A spokesperson for the company, which offers a wide selection of international wines including French, Australian, German, Italian and Chilean, told us the website is currently putting in place a process to allow shipping to Ireland. . This should take “at least a few more weeks”.

What is the price after including excise duty?

Although online prices may seem attractive, the caveat is that they will also be subject to Irish excise rates. When combined with shipping costs, the attractiveness decreases.

Revenue gives the example of a bottle of still wine sold for €5.50. The excise duty will be €3.19 on this 75 cl bottle of wine (with an alcohol content between 5.5% and 15%) with an additional VAT of €1.03, i.e. a total tax of 4, €22.

When it comes to beer, you’ll pay a tax of 47 cents on a 500ml bottle with, say, an alcohol content of 4.2%. VAT also applies, at a rate of 23%, so more than a third (€1.03) of the price of a bottle of beer will be due to taxes.

This puts Ireland out of step with much of Europe. A report published this summer by Ibec found that Ireland had one of the highest excise rates in Europe, along with Finland (€2.98 for a bottle of wine) and the UK (2 ,50 €). This compares to zero excise duty in Austria, Portugal and Germany, while France applies a duty of just 3 cents on a bottle of wine and 7 cents on sparkling wine.

For example, a bottle of Bouvet-Ladubay sparkling rosé will set you back €24 at Whelehans in Dublin; on, on the other hand, you can buy it for €12.90 a bottle. So almost half price.

However, this is before shipping costs. Although prices are not yet available for Ireland, shipping prices to mainland Europe are around €19 for up to 18 bottles (so as low as €1.05 per bottle) and €46 for a maximum of 54 bottles. Prices to Ireland are likely to be higher.

And then there’s your excise duty. On that bottle of sparkling rosé, that would then come to a total cost of €20.32, taking into account excise duty of €6.37 on sparkling wine – and potentially even more depending on shipping costs plus VAT . Not much saving then, if any saving at all.

The (high) costs of buying wine online


Sparkling rose Bouvet-Ladubay €12.90; VAT & shipping €20.32 (+VAT) 24 €


Boas Quintas Fonte do Ouro Tinto €5.50; with taxes and shipping €11.94 (+VAT) €16.95

The (cheap) costs of buying in person


Faustino VII Rioja

Tesco (Republic) 13 €

Tesco (Northern Ireland) £8 (€9.55)


Muscadet Sèvre et Maine

SuperValu €11.99

crossroads €3.95

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