US Customs

Old May 21st, 2005, 04:04 PM
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US Customs

Hey!! I will be going to Florence for a few weeks at the end of this summer, and I'm planning on bringing back a few bottles of Tuscan wine as souvenirs (mainly for my mom). However, I am still 17, so I was wondering if this will be a problem with customs. What if my mom is meeting me at the airport? Also, could I have the winery ship it home to Florida? Any advice would be great! I'd hate to miss out on bringing such a wonderful part of Italian culture home! (and my family would too!) ~Katie
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Old May 21st, 2005, 06:12 PM
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Well, Katie, I have to tell you that when our own Katie was the ripe old age of 11, she brought home a couple of bottles of champagne. I wouldn't recommend bringing home a ton of wine to the point where you have to be declaring and paying duty on it, which draws more attention than I think someone like you would be looking for. But the job of U.S. Customs is not really to get involved with enforcement of state laws. (That is what drinking age laws are, even though our beloved U.S. Congress took it upon itself to force all of the states to adopt the 21 year-old drinking age on threat of withholding highway funding a number of years back). I can't tell you what the actual law is, but assuming it's not an issue on the acquisition side, I think you would stand an excellent chance of bringing your bottles through intact.
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Old May 21st, 2005, 07:23 PM
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I think that when you bring wine that is unopened it is ok for any age, right, Flyboy?
Kate, I don't know about Florence but there are wine shops in some European airports where you can carry it or ship it home..hopefully a Fodorite who has done this will notice this and answer.
Have a great time!!
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Old May 21st, 2005, 07:34 PM
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With regard to shipping from Italy, some states allow wine from out of the state to be shipped in, some do not. The carton might have a better chance if it is labeled 'canned goods', if one were to try to circumvent the law, which I am not advocating that one do.

As an aside the US Supreme Court ruled this week, finally, that states can't unfairly prevent out-of-state wineries from shipping to consumers in other states, but there are nuances and ramifications still to be worked out.
And that's for shipments within the US anyway.
But I digress. What was the question?
Oh, yes...

US Customs allows each citizen to bring in up to one liter of wine duty-free, beyond that there is supposed to be a 10% assessment. Do declare what you are bringing in (in other words, don't mess with Customs), but I'm told that assessments are rarely imposed. Additionally, you are supposed to be in compliance with your state laws on importing wine from other places (some don't allow it), but
US Customs is not responsible for enforcing those laws.
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Old May 22nd, 2005, 03:24 AM
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last year, i went on a school trip (i was 18) and a few of the kids brought back alcohol, including my twin brother who brought back absinth (no idea how to spell it, but its illegal in the US). anyways, no one declared anything. having to go through customs with family members i was horribly nervous... but they don't check. you have nothing to be worried about, it'll be fine.
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Old May 22nd, 2005, 04:32 AM
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You can bring it in just fine, as has been said. And as far as declaring it, you don't have to declare anything unless you are over the dollar limit. And wine is a real heavy pain to lug back. You can usually get anything you want in the States. Of course, your problem is legality in the US.
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Old May 22nd, 2005, 04:50 AM
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I brought back wine from France when I was 17 with no problem. We just brought back over 7 bottles from Italy in April (I am over 21 now) but no one said anything. We did declare it but there was not additional charge. It was VERY heavy but not a big deal.

It is VERY expensive to ship wine back. About 10 euro PER bottle, not worth it. Also, you cannot ship to "dry" counties in the States.
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Old May 22nd, 2005, 05:34 AM
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Just to clarify, you are supposed to declare anything that is over the prescribed quantity limit, not just dollar value.
For wine or liquor, the prescribed limit is one litre per person. There are also limits on some foods, cigarettes, etc.
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Old May 22nd, 2005, 10:25 AM
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With regards to shipping to Florida, don't go that route since Florida is one of those states that do not allow alcohol to be shipped in from out of state.
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Old May 22nd, 2005, 05:00 PM
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I suggest you find the US Customs Service website and read their brochure on what you can bring through customs. You will find that you can bring in one liter, undutiable, of alcohol if you are aged 21, it is for your use or for a gift, and it is legal in the state in which you arrive.

You will also find that you have to declare everything you get overseas and are bringing back, whether or not it is dutiable. If they find undeclared property, it is subject to forfeiture at their discretion, whether or not you would have had to pay duty on it.

One problem in getting information on forums such as this is that most of us just speak from our own experiences, not from complete knowledge of the subject. So one person may bring in a forbidden object, not declare it, and not be caught because the customs people had a bad day, or just chose not to search that person, and then that person will go around stating that it is legal to bring in that contraband and not declare it!

The sad fact is that customs inspectors are human, and are often faced with crowds of people who have to make connections, so they don't search everything, and they make mistakes.

In your place, I would bring the wine, declare it, and hope they are too busy to notice you are underaged. If they catch you, plead ignorance, cry, and throw yourself on their tender mercies. Chances are they will let you go, unless the inspector likes wine.
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Old May 22nd, 2005, 05:10 PM
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clevelandbrown, I sure agree with your thinking!

BTW, a couple of trips ago to Italy I was given an oilpainting by a friend who had received it from an artist. It was in my checkin luggage. I had no idea what to declare value wise. So I put $80.00 on the form. Had no problem going through customs. They did not even want to look at it. I have since found out that perhaps the value is a lot more.

Also, I have always heard (you know the "they say") that if one is caught in a problem with US customs that future trips will mean more scrutiny from customs in the future. Not sure if that is correct but it makes sense to me.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 06:33 AM
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I was 17 years old when I came home from a year in Brazil as an exchange student. I had a couple of coconuts and a bottle of Pinga (rum), and the only thing they took away from me was the coconuts since they were an agricultural product. (I left the coconuts on top and buried the Pinga)

I didn't offer the information about the Pinga, and they didn't ask. I just figured if they found it they could keep it if they needed to, and they didn't.

Not sure if I'd advise the same thing, but that's how it happened.

Good luck,

Julie
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 03:14 PM
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My suspicion is that this happens "all the time" and that Customs (a) has no jurisdiction (drinking laws are state laws), (b) has more important things to do (like stopping Osama Bin Laden from entering the country), (c) know that this is happening, and (d) couldn't care less.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 04:12 PM
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When I was 17 I went to a party here in Michigan and had two beers and got drunk. The adults running the party could have been arrested, but we didn't get caught. That's the gist of what all the other "when I was 17" stories on this thread are all about - we didn't get caught.

clevelandbrown has it right. US Customs is required by federal law to enforce state laws on alcohol, and every other state and federal law on the books, whether it's about Italian salami or German cars or Dutch tulips or the number of dollars in your pocket.

So, break the law if you wish (and I happen to think there is nothing wrong with my 17 year old daughter drinking wine) but be prepared for consequences if you are nabbed.

Get the US Customs booklet "Know Before You Go" from the internet if you need to be convinced by an official government document.





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