Duty-Free Allowance: Cigarettes and Tobacco Products

Registering Valuables Before Leaving Home

It is recommended that guests register their valuables with Customs before leaving home. This should be done well in advance of travel at a Customs office near home. Items that should be registered generally include those not manufactured in their country. If the guest cannot prove that they own an item prior to departure, Customs officials may charge them duty to bring the item back into the country. Customs pays particular attention to cameras (including special lenses and video equipment), binoculars, radios, laptop computers, foreign-made watches and other similar appliances.

Duty-Free Allowance

The following guidelines pertain to U.S. Residents only. Non-U.S. Residents must comply with Customs laws set-up by the Customs Office in their particular country. Specific information will be provided on board the ship. 

All Heads of Households are required to complete one U.S. Customs Declaration Form, to include those family members traveling with them who reside at the same address. 

The Head of Household must declare all merchandise purchased or acquired abroad and which he/she is bringing back into the United States. That includes items purchased in duty-free shops (on board) and in port as well as items received as gifts. It also includes items the guests have begun to use or are wearing. All purchases must be listed on the back of the U.S. Customs declaration form. Undeclared merchandise is subject to seizure and/or penalty.

Note: It does not include items that have been shipped directly from Mexico, the Cayman Islands or Canada, which will be assessed a duty when they enter the country. Items shipped back from other countries must be declared and a Customs Form 255 filled out upon return to the United States.

If the family has exceeded the U.S. Customs exemptions, the Head of Household must present him or herself with receipts to the Customs Border Protection Agents on the last morning of the cruise. Cash only is accepted for payment of additional taxes exceeding the Duty-Free allowance.

Duty-Free Allowance for U.S Residents: Ship itineraries that include any of U.S Virgin Islands: St Thomas; St Croix; St John 

  • $1600 (retail) of duty-free purchases per person may be spent. Note: of the $1600, no more than $800 can be purchased outside the U.S. Virgin Islands or on board. 
  • 5 liters of alcohol per person (21 years or older). Note: 1 liter of alcohol must be a product of the U.S. Virgin Islands. 
  • 1 carton of cigarettes (18 years or older). 
  • 100 non-Cuban cigars (18 years or older). 

Duty-Free Allowance for U.S Residents: All other ship itineraries

  • $800 (retail) of duty-free purchases per person may be spent. 
  • 1 liter of alcohol per person (21 years or older). Note: On certain itineraries, an additional liter may be purchased. 
  • 1 carton of cigarettes (18 years or older). 
  • 100 non-Cuban cigars (18 years or older). 

Tobacco Products

Travelers may import previously exported tobacco products only in quantities not exceeding the amounts specified in exemptions for which the traveler qualifies. Any quantities of previously exported tobacco products not permitted by an exemption will be seized and destroyed. These items are typically purchased in duty-free stores, on carriers operating internationally, or in foreign stores. These items are usually marked “Tax Exempt. For Use Outside the United States,” or “U.S. Tax Exempt For Use Outside the United States.”

For example, a returning resident is eligible for the $800 exemption, which includes not more than 1 carton/200 cigarettes and 100 cigars: If the resident declares 400 previously exported cigarettes, the resident would be permitted 200 cigarettes, tax-free under the exemption and the remaining 200 previously exported cigarettes would be confiscated.

If the resident declares 400 cigarettes, of which 200 are previously exported and 200 not previously exported, the resident would be permitted to import the 200 previously exported cigarettes tax free under the exemption and the resident would be charged duty and tax on the remaining 200 foreign-made cigarettes.

The tobacco exemption is available to each adult. Except for information and informational materials, no traveler (whether traveling legally under an Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) license or traveling illegally without an OFAC license) may import Cuban-made goods, including Cuban cigars, unless authorized to do so by a specific license issued by OFAC.

Alcoholic Beverages

One liter (33.8 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages may be included in your exemption if:

  • You are 21 years old.
  • It is for your own use or as a gift.
  • It does not violate the laws of the state in which you arrive.

Federal regulations allow you to bring back more than one liter of alcoholic beverage for personal use, but, as with extra tobacco, you will have to pay duty and Internal Revenue Service tax.

While Federal regulations do not specify a limit on the amount of alcohol you may bring back for personal use, unusual quantities are liable to raise suspicions that you are importing the alcohol for other purposes, such as for resale. CBP officers are authorized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to make on-the-spot determinations that an importation is for commercial purposes, and may require you to obtain a permit to import the alcohol before releasing it to you. If you intend to bring back a substantial quantity of alcohol for your personal use, you should contact the port through which you will be re-entering the country, and make prior arrangements for entering the alcohol into the United States.

Also, you should be aware that state laws might limit the amount of alcohol you can bring in without a license. If you arrive in a state that has limitations on the amount of alcohol you may bring in without a license, that state law will be enforced by CBP, even though it may be more restrictive than federal regulations. We recommend that you check with the state government before you go abroad about their limitations on quantities allowed for personal importation and additional state taxes that might apply.

In brief, for both alcohol and tobacco, the quantities discussed in this booklet as being eligible for duty-free treatment may be included in your $800 or $1,600 exemption, just as any other purchase would be. But unlike other kinds of merchandise, amounts beyond those discussed here as being duty-free are taxed, even if you have not exceeded, or even met, your personal exemption. For example, if your exemption is $800 and you bring back three liters of wine and nothing else, two of those liters will be dutiable. Federal law prohibits shipping alcoholic beverages by mail within the United States.

Was this answer helpful?
Your rating has been submitted, please tell us how we can make this answer more useful.

For a question unrelated to this article Click Here


Print