Wine Tax Abroad: Who Pays?

how to pay for wine tax when traveling abroad

When travelling abroad, it's important to be aware of the rules and regulations regarding the purchase and transportation of wine and other alcoholic beverages. Each country has its own set of laws and restrictions on the amount of alcohol that can be brought into the country, and these rules can vary depending on whether you are travelling within the EU or entering from a non-EU country.

In the European Union, excise duties must generally be paid in the country where the alcohol is consumed. However, there are exemptions for private individuals travelling between EU countries, as long as the products are for personal use and not for resale. When entering the EU from a non-EU country, travellers can bring a limited amount of alcohol (such as 4 litres of still wine or 1 litre of spirits) without paying VAT and excise duties, as long as it is for personal use.

When travelling to the United States, federal and state regulations allow travellers to bring one litre of alcohol for personal use duty-free. However, states may allow travellers to bring more than one litre, but they will have to pay any applicable Customs duty and IRT. It's important to check with the state's Alcohol Beverage Control board to understand the specific regulations and restrictions.

Additionally, when travelling with alcohol, it's important to consider the mode of transportation. For air travel, the Transportation Security Administration allows liquids over 3.4 ounces in checked bags, but only for liquids purchased after clearing security. The Federal Aviation Administration allows 5 litres of unopened bottles with an alcohol volume of 24% to 70% per person.

Characteristics Values
How much wine can you bring? The amount of wine you can bring depends on the country you are travelling to and from. For example, when leaving the EU for the UK, the limit is 18 litres of still wine per person. When entering the EU from a non-EU country, the limit is 4 litres of still wine. In the US, federal regulations allow you to bring one litre of wine for personal use duty-free, but state laws may differ.
Where to pay the tax In the EU, excise duties must be paid in the country where the wine is consumed. In the US, you must pay the duty before the conclusion of your Customs and Border Protection processing.
How to pay the tax In the US, you can pay the duty by personal check, government check, money order, traveller's check, or credit card (MasterCard or Visa).
Getting a tax refund When leaving the EU for the UK, you can get a tax refund using a traditional in-store paper method or a digital app like Wevat.


Understand the limits on the amount of wine you can bring back

When bringing wine back from abroad, it's important to understand the limits on the amount you can bring, as exceeding these limits can result in additional taxes and duties. Here are the key points to know:

Limits and Regulations:

  • United States: In the US, federal law allows travellers over 21 years of age to bring up to one liter of alcohol (except absinthe) duty-free. There is no federal limit on the amount of wine for personal use, but US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may flag travellers carrying more than 12 bottles (a standard case of wine). Anything above this amount may be considered for commercial use and require an import license. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restricts bringing on a plane more than five litres of alcohol with an alcohol content between 24% and 70%. Wine typically falls under 24% alcohol content, so travellers can bring more than five litres in checked luggage without incurring additional taxes.
  • United Kingdom: The UK government sets personal allowances for importing alcohol. Travellers can bring in 9 litres of fortified and sparkling wine up to 22% alcohol or 4 litres of spirits and liquors over 22% alcohol. Mixing and matching is allowed, as long as it stays within the personal allowance. Exceeding this limit will result in additional taxes and duties on all items, not just the excess amount.
  • Other Countries: Each country has its own regulations and limits on the amount of alcohol that can be brought into the country. It's important to check the specific rules for your destination before travelling.

Tips for Bringing Wine Back:

  • Declaration: In many countries, including the US, travellers must declare any alcohol brought from a foreign country on a customs declaration form. Even if no duty is required, proper declaration is essential.
  • Duty-Free Limits: Duty-free exemptions typically allow travellers to bring a limited amount of alcohol (usually one litre) purchased at duty-free shops without paying additional taxes. However, this amount can vary depending on the country of origin and local regulations.
  • Packing and Protection: When packing wine in checked luggage, use protective sleeves, bubble wrap, or clothing to secure the bottles and prevent breakage. Separate bottles with layers of soft items and clothing to provide padding and reduce direct contact between bottles.
  • Shipping: Shipping wine from abroad can be a convenient option, but it may incur additional costs, including handling and customs broker fees. Some wineries and merchants offer shipping services, which can be a good option if you plan to bring back a significant quantity of wine.


Declare your wine at customs

When bringing wine back from abroad, it is important to declare it at customs to avoid any issues. Here are some detailed instructions on how to do this:

Firstly, it is important to note that you must be 21 or older to import alcohol into the US. If you are under 21, it is illegal to import alcohol, even as a gift. For those over 21, you are generally allowed to bring 1 liter of alcohol per person into the US duty-free. This is the federal limit, but each state may have its own laws and limits, so it is important to check with your state's Alcohol Beverage Control board before your trip.

If you are bringing more than 1 liter of wine, you will need to declare it and pay the relevant duties and taxes. Duty is typically around 3% of the value of the wine, and the IRS excise tax ranges from around 21-31 cents per 750ml bottle of wine. These rates can be found in Chapter 22, "Beverages, Spirits, and Vinegar" of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. It is important to be aware that even if you have $1000 of duty-free exemptions, only one bottle of wine will be duty-free. The rest will be subject to duty and taxes.

When packing your wine, make sure it is easily accessible for inspection by customs officials. It is recommended to wrap the bottles securely, using bubble wrap or reusable protection sleeves, and then wrapping clothes around them for added security. This will also help protect your wine and prevent leaks during transport.

If you are traveling by plane, there are additional rules to consider. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a size limit for bottles in carry-on luggage, with liquids over 3.4 ounces needing to be packed in checked baggage. However, exceptions are made for liquids purchased after clearing security. For checked bags, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows 5 liters per person of unopened bottles containing alcohol by volume of over 24% to 70%. For alcohol under 24% by volume, you can pack more than 5 liters. The FAA does not allow any bottles with alcohol by volume over 70% in checked or carry-on baggage.

When declaring your wine at customs, you will need to fill out a Customs and Border Protection form (6059B). Be honest and accurate in your declaration to avoid any issues or delays. Provide all the required information, including the value and quantity of the wine, and be prepared to pay any applicable duties and taxes.

By following these instructions, you can confidently bring back your favorite wines from your travels abroad while complying with all the necessary regulations.


Pay wine tax with a personal check, government check, money order, or credit card

When travelling abroad, it's important to be aware of the rules and regulations regarding the import of alcohol, including wine, into your destination country. Each country may have different laws and restrictions on the amount of wine you can bring in, as well as the associated taxes and duties.

In this case, let's focus on the payment methods available for wine tax when travelling abroad, specifically using a personal check, government check, money order, or credit card. Here are some instructions and considerations for each payment method:

Personal Check or Money Order:

  • Before choosing this option, consider using electronic payment methods, as they are often safer, quicker, and reduce processing errors.
  • If you decide to mail your tax payment, make sure your check or money order is payable to the relevant tax authority. For example, in the United States, checks should be payable to the "U.S. Treasury."
  • Include all the necessary information, such as your name, address, phone number, Social Security number or tax identification number, and the relevant tax form or notice number.
  • Do not staple or paperclip your check to the voucher, return, or payment coupon. Instead, fold your check into the form or envelope.
  • Write the amount using all numbers (e.g., $###.##).
  • Keep attachments or carbon copies of money orders or cashier's checks for tracking purposes if needed.

Credit Card:

  • Using a credit card for wine purchases or related taxes can offer certain benefits, such as purchase protection.
  • Some credit cards may also waive checked bag fees, which can be useful if you plan to bring back wine bottles in your luggage.
  • When travelling to the United States, be aware that duty-free exemptions generally allow you to skip the duty on one liter of alcohol purchased, with some exceptions for certain Caribbean destinations.

Government Check:

  • Government checks are typically used for tax payments to government entities.
  • Ensure that you follow the instructions provided by the relevant government agency for paying taxes.
  • In the United States, for example, you would make the check payable to the "U.S. Treasury" and include specific information as outlined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Please note that the above instructions provide a general guide, and specific requirements may vary depending on your location and the relevant tax authorities. Always refer to official sources for the most up-to-date and accurate information.


Use a digital app to get more money back on tax

When travelling abroad, you may be eligible for a VAT refund on alcohol, including wine. Using a digital app is a convenient way to get more money back on tax when purchasing wine abroad.

For example, Wevat is a digital tax refund app that allows travellers to save money on their shopping in France. The app offers up to 23% more VAT back compared to in-store VAT refund providers, with no minimum spending requirements on each purchase. After taking a picture of your purchase invoices, you can generate and scan your barcode when you leave the country. The app also provides multilingual customer support.

Other digital apps that can assist with tax refunds and payments while travelling abroad include:

  • This platform offers a pre-travel service called Smart Trip, which helps users familiarise themselves with the tax requirements in their destination country. It also assists with applying for tax refunds when leaving the country, ensuring users get back any tax they have overpaid.
  • Revolut: This prepaid debit card and app allow users to access their money and pay for goods in multiple countries. It also enables users to convert currencies into various cryptocurrencies.
  • Wise (formerly Transferwise): This app and website provide comprehensive financial services to users, including the ability to spend abroad without hidden fees in over 200 countries and support for 54 currencies.
  • N26: Europe's first entirely mobile bank, N26 offers users the ability to spend and save globally, with features like 'Spaces' that enable better money management.
  • Monese: With Monese, users can open UK, EU and RON bank accounts and obtain excellent exchange rates, along with built-in purchase protection. The app also helps with budgeting and tracking money spending.

These digital solutions can provide hassle-free options for managing your money and taxes when travelling abroad, ensuring you get the most out of your wine purchases and other expenses.


Pack your wine securely

Packing wine securely is essential to ensure that your precious bottles of wine arrive home safely and don't leak and damage your other belongings. Here are some detailed instructions on how to pack your wine securely when travelling:

Use a Wine Travel Bag or Suitcase:

Firstly, consider investing in a wine travel bag or a wine suitcase specifically designed for transporting wine. Wine travel bags provide cushioning and are often leak-proof, adding an extra layer of protection. Wine suitcases are hard-shell suitcases with compartments for multiple bottles of wine and can also be used as regular suitcases. These options are ideal for transporting wine securely and safely.

Wrap and Cushion the Wine Bottles:

If you don't want to purchase a specialised wine bag, you can use clothing and other items in your luggage to wrap and cushion the wine bottles. Here's how:

  • Step 1: Take everything out of your suitcase, except for dirty laundry.
  • Step 2: Separate your clothes into piles of heavy, light, and fillers like socks and underwear. Try to have at least one heavy piece of clothing for each bottle of wine, such as a sweater or jacket.
  • Step 3: Use your shoes to create a parameter around the inside of the suitcase to buffer side impacts.
  • Step 4: Build a cushy base layer with thick pieces of clothing to separate the wine bottles from the sides of your bag.
  • Step 5: Place each wine bottle into a plastic bag and knot it tightly at the top. This will help contain any leaks or spills.
  • Step 6: Wrap the wine bottles. Use your heaviest pieces of clothing, like sweaters or jackets, to wrap around the bottles and their necks. The neck is the most vulnerable part of the bottle. You can place the bottle inside a sleeve and roll it up, then use the remaining sleeve fabric to wrap around the neck.
  • Step 7: Use fillers like socks and underwear to separate and cushion the bottles from each other and the sides of the bag. This will protect them from knocking into each other and reduce movement.
  • Step 8: Pack everything else on top, ensuring the wine bottles are secure and won't move around.

Other Tips:

  • Use bubble wrap: Bubble wrap is an effective tool for protecting fragile items. Wrap each wine bottle in bubble wrap and secure it with packing tape.
  • Request "Fragile" stickers: Ask for "Fragile" stickers at the airline counter and place them on both sides of your suitcase. This will inform handlers to treat your luggage with extra care.
  • Pack wine in the middle: Place the wine bottles towards the centre of your luggage, away from the edges and zipper. The centre of the suitcase provides more protection from external impacts.
  • Allow wine to settle: After your journey, let the wine settle for a week or two before opening it. Travelling can cause "bottle shock," making the wine taste dull and flat.

By following these instructions, you can securely pack your wine and minimise the risk of breakage and leaks during your travels.

Frequently asked questions

The new individual limits when leaving the EU for the UK are 18 litres (24 bottles) of still wine, or 9 litres (12 bottles) of sparkling wine, fortified wine or any alcoholic beverage less than 22% ABV.

There are two main ways to get a tax refund: using a traditional in-store paper method, or a digital app like Wevat. Whichever method you choose, you will need to get your (e)refund form/vouchers validated at customs before you leave the EU.

Federal and state regulations allow you to bring back one litre of an alcoholic beverage for personal use duty-free. You must be 21 or over, and the wine must not violate the laws of the state in which you arrive.

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