How To Import Alcoholic Beverages Into the US

Your how-to guide on wine, beer, and spirit imports into the US

When importing craft beer, wine, distilled spirits, cider, whiskey, malt beverages and other hard liquors into the US, you must know what government parties are involved, what regulations must be followed, and the fundamental aspects of alcoholic beverage imports.

Parties Involved:

Main Regulations:

Import Fundamentals:

  • You will be acting as the Importer of Record. Therefore, you are the party ultimately responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the import declaration, as well as the payment of applicable duties and taxes into the US.
  • Duty and tax must be paid upon importation into the US.
  • The rate of duty is determined by the tariff of the commodity being imported, the value of the goods and, the origin of the goods.
  • Certain import documentation is required to be presented to the border services officer at the port of entry.
  • Your import may be subject to a customs review, inspection or audit prior to, at the time of, or after the importation. Additional fees may be levied by the US Government for these services.
  • You are required to keep your import records for five years following the date of import and can be audited by Customs at any point during this time.

FAQ: Alcohol Imports

What Do I Need To Know About Bringing Alcohol (Including Homemade Wine) Into The Us In My Personal Baggage?
  • One liter of alcohol can be brought into the US duty-free by travelers who are at least 21 years of age.
  • Additional quantities can be entered, however, will be subject to duty and federal excise taxes collected at the port of entry.
  • It is illegal for travelers under the age of 21 to import alcohol even as a gift.
  • There is no federal limit to the amount of alcohol you can bring in with you; however, large quantities may signal to CBP and the TTB that you are importing for commercial purposes.
  • Each state governs the regulation (including state excise taxes) of alcohol brought into their state, and maybe more restrictive than federal regulations.

    Click here for the directory of contact information and websites by State.
What Do You Need To Know About Importing Alcohol Into The Us For Commercial Purposes?

Importers who wish to import alcohol for commercial purposes must have a Basic Permit to Import as well as Certificates of Label Approval (COLA). Alcohol is subject to Federal Excise Tax, which is collected at the time of import. You may qualify for a reduced excise tax under the Craft Beverage Modernization Act (CBMA). Alcohol is also subject to state excise taxes and regulations that differ from state to state. You will need to ensure that you understand the tax reporting and payment responsibilities specific to the state into which the alcohol will be imported.

Click here for the directory of contact information and websites by state.

What Is The Craft Beverage Modernization Act (CBMA)?
Under the CBMA, reduced (excise) tax rates and/or tax credits are applicable to importations of certain limited quantities of distilled spirits, beer, or wine imported from each assigning entity. In order to be eligible, an importer must be able to substantiate that it has been assigned an allotment of the assigning entity’s reduced tax rate or tax credit quantity as applicable. This temporary program has been extended through the 2020 calendar year.

Click here for more information on this program.
How To Apply For A Basic Permit To Import Alcohol?
You can apply for a basic permit online (only applicable to beer, wine, and distilled spirits) or by paper application.
How Much Does The Alcohol Basic Permit To Import Cost?
There is no fee to apply.
What Is A Federal Basic Permit To Import?
A Federal Basic Permit To Import is a document issued under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act authorizing a person to engage in the import of alcoholic beverages.
What Is Required To Apply For A Federal Basic Permit To Import?
  • Must not have been convicted of a felony under federal or state law within five years from the date of application, nor have been convicted of a misdemeanor under any federal law relating to liquor including taxation within three years.
  • Must be able to demonstrate through business experience, financial standing or trade connections that they are likely to commence operations as an importer within a reasonable period and to maintain such operations in conformity with federal law; and
  • Must intend to conduct your importations in compliance with the law of the state in which they are to be conducted.
What Is A Certificate Of Label Approval (COLA)?
Alcoholic beverages are subject to strict marketing and labeling requirements and must be approved to ensure compliance with federal regulations prior to being imported into the US.
How To Get A Certificate Of Label Approval (COLA)?
You can apply for a COLA online here or by paper here. The person applying for the COLA online must have signing authority for your company. Things to note when choosing the method of applying, filing online is faster, more streamlined, you will receive an acknowledgement of receipt and have the ability to check the status of your application online. Whereas, filing by paper application you lose the receipt of acknowledgement, the speed in process and is harder to check the status of your application.
How Much Does A Certificate Of Label Approval (COLA) Cost?
There is no fee to apply.

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