When did duty-free allowances start? In which country and why? I am specifically asking about travellers being able to bring in alcohol and tobacco without paying duty or tax.

To be clear, I am asking about being allowed by law, rather than convention or customs people looking the other way.

This is related to my question on the politics stack.

I would like to know how explicit duty free allowances were introduced; a history of duty free.

Edit: MCW has provided information about the first duty free shop, which although informative doesn't quite answer what I wanted. I am interested in the destination country allowing people to bring in goods. I have tried using a search engine to find this out, but all I ever get back is contemporary information regarding import limits. There presumably is legislation allowing this in most countries.

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    We don't usually explain our downvotes; in the past that has led to personal abuse. I didn't vote, but it is normal to do preliminary research;
    – MCW
    Jul 23 at 23:03
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    Your question is certainly not off-topic. It's a tough question, I think, which makes it potentially a good addition to this site (in my opinion). My guess is the downvote was for lack of research. You could improve your question by mentioning a few places that you've looked and by briefly summarizing what you found. Jul 24 at 1:58
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    @LarsBosteen Thanks for your feedback and also your link about the onboard duty-free shops. Jul 24 at 20:48
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    You (or potential answerers) might turn the question around, and ask when it became common for individuals to have to go through customs checks, and have to possibly pay tax. That is, I'm not thinking about commercial smuggling, but things obviously for personal use,
    – jamesqf
    Jul 24 at 22:38
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    I don't know which country first introduced DutyFree. But the UK introduced a duty free allowance of tobacco (half a pound weight) in 1850 extended to include one pint of spirits in 1875. This was in response to a boom in passengers travelling abroad due to the Victorian increase in railway travel. Customs officers began working at London Bridge station. Source: "Portcullis" -The Staff Newspaper of HM Customs & Excise; The Final Edition March 2005, page 14 "History of Customs"
    – canonacer
    Sep 8 at 2:26

"The world’s first airport duty free shop was opened at Shannon Airport by Dr Brendan O’Regan in 1947 to serve trans-Atlantic airline passengers travelling between North America and Europe. Flights would stop at Shannon on both legs to refuel and passengers had time to kill before continuing on their journey. Such a captive audience surely had sales potential! The argument by Dr O’Regan and his team was that, having passed passport control, the passenger had left the country and therefore the duties/taxes of that country became invalid. So everything bought after passport control should be considered as duty-free. The idea was given the go-ahead in Ireland and the shop was an instant success." taxfreetravel.com

OP expanded the scope of the question to request a history of the evolution of duty free shops; a short history is provided in history of duty free.

That page goes on to clarify:

In 1944 this right was extended to passengers on international flights • but it was Dr O’Regan who brought the concept of duty free into the airport itself and in 1954 international agreements on allowances were agreed in the New York Convention on International Travel. At this time Customs were still fairly anti the concept of ground shops being allowed to sell duty free to travellers and initially orders had to be taken landside (eg before passport control) and then the goods would be delivered in sealed bags to passengers at the Gate as they boarded. HistoryOfDutyFree

Food and Wine expands on the 1954 New York Convention on travel

Of course, he couldn’t make that decision for every country in the world, so O’Regan brought his proposal to the New York Convention on International Travel in 1954, where everyone could decide on the particular duty-free rules.

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    This does not answer my question, This is a copy and paste from the internet, Jul 23 at 23:47
  • Could you explain why this falls short? What were you looking for in an answer that is not here?
    – MCW
    Jul 24 at 10:57
  • thanks for your answer. Actually I think it does provide insight into how duty free started. I was thinking about it from the other end, as in countries allowing personal limits for travellers, but I hadn't considered that it may have started this way Jul 24 at 11:49
  • Just to add, to fully answer my question, I would like to know if explicit duty free allowances were introduced as a result of this shop. Jul 24 at 12:03
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    Thanks for your edit. This is what I was after. I did not presume it was so recent, I was thinking it would have been a 19th-century thing. Jul 24 at 22:45

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