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General rules for Importing for Liquor and Tobacco

Products of Cuban tobacco are prohibited to arriving U.S. citizens and residents, unless acquired in Cuba by persons authorized by the State Department to travel to Cuba. Persons who are authorized by the State Department to travel to Cuba will remain subject to the general exemptions and restrictions applied to the importation of tobacco products.

Cigarettes may be subject to a tax imposed by state and local authorities.

You will be required to pay duty on liquor that is imported in quantities greater than the exemptions allowed for each category of persons moving to the United States.

While there is no Federal limit to the amount of alcohol you may bring in, there will most likely be a state limit.  This limit is determined by the state that your goods arrive in, not the state you are moving to unless your goods are sent in-bond to the state you are moving to.

Alcoholic beverages may not be imported into the U.S. by mail, nor can Customs release liquor in violation of the laws of the state where it is entered. As laws vary from state to state, this information may be obtained from state liquor authorities. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the U.S. Customs Service have concurrent jurisdiction in the area of personal use importations of alcoholic beverages. As a practical matter, it is usually the U.S. Customs Service and the port director at the port of entry who decide whether or not a particular importation is, in fact, for personal use only. In certain circumstances, ATF may exercise joint jurisdiction with Customs in making this determination.  In addition, other state, local or U.S. Customs requirements may apply. It should be noted that some states prohibit the direct shipment of alcoholic beverages to individuals. Anyone interested in importing alcohol for personal use should contact his or her state liquor control agency. If the alcohol is being imported for sale, you must have an ATF permit in advance of the goods arriving in port.

Households with personal wine cellars must remember that all alcohol over the amount eligible for duty-free treatment is dutiable at the applicable duty rate and that all Federal, state, and local taxes must be paid.

Finally, the determination of whether or not a shipment is for personal or commercial use cannot be decided solely on the size of the shipment, but must be determined on a case-by-case basis considering the circumstances surrounding the importation. However, the size of the shipment may give rise to questions resulting in the need for an investigation by Customs or the ATF.  For further information contact:

Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms
Alcohol Import-Export Branch
650 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20226
TEL: 202.927.8110
FAX:  202.927.8605

U.S. Customs Service
Commercial Rulings Division
Office of Regulations and Rulings
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20229
TEL: 202.572.8700


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