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Taxing Travellers Wine

Will there be a nasty surprise waiting for you at your destination, asks Peter F May. Many countries like to tax travellers who carry alcohol.



If you are flying internationally then you will encounter customs and will likely be liable for tax charges on wines above the duty free allowance that you bring into a country. In practice most countries will let you bring in a dozen bottles of wine without charge, if for no other reason that the officer can’t bother with the paper work for such a small amount. There are more important things for them to do.

US Citizens returning to the USA have to fill in a customs form and list every item they have brought from abroad with its value. The customs officer will look at the form and usually wave you through. They may want to check, but if they do charge tax in your wine it is a matter of 34 cents per bottle above your 1 litre duty free allowance. Canadian customs require you to list all alcohol in your baggage and – in my experience – unfailingly direct you to a room lined with supermarket like check out counters where they relieve you of a hefty wedge of money.

If you take wine into Singapore – even when stopping over for a couple of days on the way to somewhere else – you must either pay hefty tax or take your wine to a room where customs officers will document it and charge you a storage fee. When you depart you need to collect your wine from customs before you check in. This worked well for me in the past but I have seen long lines of people waiting to be dealt with on some occasions when I have passed through Changi airport.

Flying into the UK and Europe from outside the EU customs is a matter of choosing a red or green corridor. Red if you have something to declare, green if you do not. You are unlikely to see a customs officer in the green channel unless you come from high drugs risk country. When flying from one EU to another EU country you avoid customs by using a blue corridor.

Disclaimer: While I am a frequent flyer and the above information is based on my personal experiences, I am unable to take responsibility for your travel. You must check regulations with your travel agent or airline. Customs allowances and rules can change and latest information is available from the country concerned and usually shown on their embassies websites.

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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.


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