July 26, 2007

Taking French Wine Back to the States

We live in the middle of vineyards. Vineyards as far as the eye can see.
Wine is cheap. And plentiful.
And there is some excellent wine available in the Minervois.

When our our friends and family from the States come to visit they just can't resist buying wine to take back with them. A bottle or two...or six. Or ten. The more wine they taste, the more they want to buy. It's just too tempting!
Here the price of six really fabulous bottles of Minervois or St. Chinian wine is what they pay for one bottle at home.

But US Customs says that you're only allowed to bring back one liter of alcohol per person, duty free. Here's what I have to say to that.
So what!
Just pay the extra duty if they're inclined to charge you for it. It's only three percent!
So, if you pay, say, 5€ a bottle and buy 6 bottles, that is 30€. These days with the Euro going sky high, 30€ equals around $42. Three percent duty on $42 is a whopping $1.24.

Dad, are you reading this? Next time you visit, bring an extra suitcase!

Merci to Dr Vino for bringing this wonderful news to my attention. Our guests always ask us what fines they would incur for extra wine and we could never give them a definitive answer. Until now.
(the pamphlet does say that each State has different rules, so future guests, we'll leave you to check that one out)

The following is an excerpt from the Customs pamphlet Know Before You Go

Alcoholic Beverages
One liter (33.8 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages may be
included in your exemption if:
• You are 21 years old.
• It is for your own use or as a gift.
• It does not violate the laws of the state in which
you arrive.
Federal regulations allow you to bring back more than
one liter of alcoholic beverage for personal use, but,
as with extra tobacco, you will have to pay duty and
Internal Revenue Service tax.
While Federal regulations do not specify a limit on the
amount of alcohol you may bring back for personal use,
unusual quantities are liable to raise suspicions that you
are importing the alcohol for other purposes, such as
for resale. CBP officers are authorized by the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to
make on-the-spot determinations that an importation
is for commercial purposes, and may require you to
obtain a permit to import the alcohol before releasing
it to you. If you intend to bring back a substantial
quantity of alcohol for your personal use, you should
contact the port through which you will be re-entering
the country, and make prior arrangements for entering
the alcohol into the United States.
Also, you should be aware that state laws might limit the
amount of alcohol you can bring in without a license. If
you arrive in a state that has limitations on the amount
of alcohol you may bring in without a license, that state
law will be enforced by CBP, even though it may be
more restrictive than federal regulations. We recommend
that you check with the state government before
you go abroad about their limitations on quantities
allowed for personal importation and additional state
taxes that might apply.

In brief, for both alcohol and tobacco, the quantities
discussed in this booklet as being eligible for duty-free
treatment may be included in your $800 or $1,600
exemption, just as any other purchase would be. But
unlike other kinds of merchandise, amounts beyond
those discussed here as being duty-free are taxed, even
if you have not exceeded, or even met, your personal
exemption. For example, if your exemption is $800
and you bring back three liters of wine and nothing
else, two of those liters will be dutiable. Federal law
prohibits shipping alcoholic beverages by mail within
the United States.

So friends and family, come to France and taste some wine and buy some bottles, because you can take it home with you!

P.S. I'm curious if any travelers with more than their allotted one liter have been charged duty by US Customs? Pin It


Samantha said...

I usually bring about 6 bottles back with me, and I never declare any of them. I've never been caught, but I always figured that if I did, I'd just pay the customs tax (which is basically nothing, like you said). Or they'd confiscate them, but it wouldn't be a big deal because wine is so cheap anyways.

The reason I don't declare them though is because I always have a connecting flight, and I don't want to get stuck waiting in customs!

Loulou said...

True, I've never declared them either. I usually travel back with several bottles and say I have one or none.
Getting stuck in Customs would be awful, especially when you have to make connections!

katiez said...

I always thought it was one litre of liquor but 2 litres of wine... Oh, well. I've never declared, either...
Before the restrictions of liquids I used to take back 2 of our own wine (my mother, naturally, loved it). I don't anymore. Somehow I didn't thing a corked bottle of wine with no tax stamp and no label would be to cool...

Loulou said...

I can just imagine what they would do with a bottle with no label! Probably close the airport down and then you would be in BIG trouble! :)

girinero said...

I regularly bring back 6 - 8 bottles. I always tell them that I have X bottles and they always wave me through. I think it's rarely worth their time to charge me a couple of dollars. But things have changed a bit and I can't vouch for Customs behaviour these days.

Loulou said...

sounds like me. let's hope they continue to be so laid back about a few bottles of wine

Anonymous said...

Dear Loulou, My wife and I have brought back as many as eight cases, one year we paid $38.00 in duty, and the next year the Customs official waved us through saying it wasn't worth the paper work. This was coming through Chicago. I recommend you call the Customs office at the airport that you will arrive from France and ask about bringing wine for personal consumption from France and see what they say. This is really an issue with the personalities and their interpretation of state laws. Best of luck....

Loulou said...

Great to hear about your success! And calling first is a good idea. I've never had any problems. (crossing my fingers)