Holiday shoppers should be able to bring back more goods from outside the European Union tax-free, according to Gordon Brown.
Coleen McLoughlin was stopped in customs after shopping in New York
The chancellor said the current £145 limit on purchases excluding alcohol, tobacco and perfume, was set in 1994.
Mr Brown said he was writing to the European Commission saying the limit was out of date and should be raised.
His comment comes as dollar-pound exchange rate offers British shoppers major savings in the United States.
Wayne Rooney's girlfriend, Coleen McLoughlin, was recently among 14 people stopped and questioned in customs at Manchester Airport after shopping in New York.