Prompted by a recent comment to one of our postings I decided to quickly lay out some of the particulars for bringing in whisky from abroad. How much whisky can I bring back to the US? In my travels I have heard my fair share of urban legends disguised as educated answers to this very important question.
Most people are afraid to bring whisky back because they simply do not know what the law is. I don’t blame them as I wouldn’t want to risk the ire of a federal agent after a lengthy international flight. I have read through the rules and although I have not been able to verify my impressions with absolute certainty I believe this is how it plays out:
First, there is no restriction on the amount of whisky you can bring back to the US for personal use. I stress personal use because the Customs and Border Protection agency (Part of the Department of Homeland Security) wants to prevent backdoor methods of importing alcohol for sale here in the US.
There are two factors for you to address when bringing whisky back to the US:
- Independent of how much whisky you have, there is an $800/person value of goods exemption (duty free). The $800/person is for returning from all countries except for U.S. insular possessions (e.g. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico) where it is $1,600/person. A flat rate duty of 3% will be charged on the next $1,000 over your personal exemption.
- Although you can technically bring back as much whisky as you want, only the first liter of whisky is duty free. Anything more than one liter will be charged a flat rate duty of 3%.
Given the above factors, even if you have a total value of goods less than the exemption of $800 but have more than one liter of whisky you will still be charged the flat 3% duty. Here is a link to the Customs Border and Protection agency’s site that helps to explain the rules. Also, be aware that there might be an IRS service fee as well. I haven’t completely figured it out, but it appears from this site that it might only be $2.14/bottle.
No one likes to pay a duty, but 3% isn’t all that bad if you are able to bring back some great whisky that is not available here in the US. Just make sure that you keep all of your receipts and have access to them so you can verify the actual value of the whisky you are bringing in. – Chris