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I'm going to a trip to the US (California to be precise) and would like to bring a bottle of liquor (1 l, ~40%) as a present. It is not a commercial brand and as such has no official etiquette.

I searched the internet with various results about if this is possible. I don't mind paying duty on it (as long as it is reasonable) - but I would mind about the bottle being confiscated upon arrival.

Edit: To answer the questions several times asked. I'm well over 21 and will be traveling by plane from Switzerland.

  • Where are you travelling from and how are you travelling? – gerrit Mar 4 '15 at 21:18
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Bringing alcohol (including homemade wine) to the U.S. for personal use (note the .gov address, this is as official as it gets)

Generally, one liter of alcohol per person may be entered into the U.S. duty-free by travelers who are 21 or older

It is not legal for travelers under the age of 21 to import alcohol - even as a gift.

Alcoholic beverages purchased in duty-free shops are subject to duty and federal excise tax when accompanying you into the United States.

NOTE: The above information is applicable to homemade wine and follows the same procedure as store bought wine. The bottles should be properly labeled.

However, As a visitor to the United States what are my exemptions on gifts for family and friends? claims:

This $100 gift exemption, or any part of it, can be claimed only once every six months. You may include 100 cigars within the gift exemption, but alcoholic beverages may not be included.

So I would definitely tell the customs official that I have this bottle of alcohol with me, since it's only 1L it'll be fine but be prepared to pay duties (or not pay duties if it falls under the "personal use" category). Never lie to customs and never offer any information not asked for.

Finally, the amount of duty How do I import alcohol for my personal use?

Duty on wine and beer is generally low, $1-2 per liter, while fortified wines and spirits are considerably higher.

Looking at Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (2013) I can only say that indeed that around $1.4 is what I would expect in duties plus there is an excise tax which seems to be 13.50 for one gallon of 50% alcohol looks like $2.7 for 1L of 40% alcohol. So at the end, you are looking at

  • Thank you for your answer. The point of the question is that I want to do this by the books. The label could be a bit of a problem. Since it basically only consist of handwritten name on the bottle. – magu_ Mar 4 '15 at 21:27
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The US Customs and Border Protection allows a traveler to bring homemade wine into the US. So it seems that the absence of official etiquette should not be a problem. The amount of 1 liter should not be a problem if you´re older than 21 years and should also be duty-free. The CBP link above says:

Generally, one liter of alcohol per person may be entered into the U.S. duty-free by travelers who are 21 or older.

California state has some laws of its own about importing alcoholic beverages for personal or household use. It depends where you coming from, your transport and a few other things. I didn't find any case where you're not allowed to bring 1 liter of liquor.

All in all, it seems that you'll have no problem bringing your liquor as a gift!

  • Thank you for your answer. Now the only thing that might still be a problem is the non-standard labeling... – magu_ Mar 4 '15 at 21:28
  • @magu_, but the BCP clearly states that homemade wine can be brought into the US. I suppose homemade wine does not have a printed etiquete, much probably no etiquete at all. – gmauch Mar 4 '15 at 21:37
  • @pnuts, In the question the OP uses the term "etiquette", I suppose as a synonym to "label". I wrote the comment using the same word. "Printed etiquette" should be a label that was printed, not handwritten. I still have a lot to learn about english... – gmauch Mar 5 '15 at 0:22

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