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  The ILCC Legal Division

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TPP-37:
Importation of Alcohol into Illinois

Personal Importation of Alcoholic Beverages

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) regulates the importation of alcoholic beverages into the United States for commercial use. Under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, any person engaged in the business of importing alcoholic beverages into the United States for commercial use must have an importer's basic permit and obtain a certificate of label approval.

When a person, or business, imports alcoholic beverages into the United States on a one-time basis for personal use, the above requirements do not apply. In some cases, individuals who import alcoholic beverages for personal use on a repetitive or continuous basis, may be required to obtain an importer's basic permit and possess a certificate of label approval for these imported shipments. ATF and the U.S. Customs Service have concurrent jurisdiction in the area of personal use importations of alcoholic beverages. As a practical matter, it is usually the U.S. Customs Service and the district director at the port of entry who decide whether or not a particular importation is, in fact, for personal use only. In certain unusual circumstances, ATF may exercise joint jurisdiction with Customs in making this determination.

If U.S. Customs and/or ATF decide that imported alcohol is for personal use, an importer's basic permit is not required nor is it necessary to obtain the certificate of label approval, however, all federal, state and local taxes must be paid. In addition, other State, local or U.S. Customs requirements may apply. It should be noted that some States prohibited the direct shipment of alcoholic beverages to individuals. Anyone interested in importing alcohol for personal use should contact their State liquor control agency. A list of State Liquor Control Boards can be found at www.NCSLA.org.

If the alcoholic beverages are to be given away as personal gifts to friends, neighbors, or relatives, etc., or are to be similarly distributed, the Federal Government health warning label requirement is applicable. Gifts of alcoholic beverages connected with the solicitation of orders for, or the sale of, such products constitutes commercial use and can only be conducted by a federally licensed Importer.

Finally, the determination whether or not a shipment is for personal or commercial use cannot be decided solely on the size of the shipment but must be determined on a case-by-case basis considering the circumstances surrounding the importation. However, the size of the shipment may give rise to a question resulting in the need for an investigation by Customs or ATF.

For Further Information Contact:

Bureau of ATF U.S. Customs Service
Alcohol Import-Export Branch Commercial Rulings Division
TEL: (202) 927-8110 Office of Regulations & Rulings
FAX: (202) 927-8605 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20229
TEL: (202) 927-2244

{The foregoing courtesy of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms website.}

Requests for Import Authorization into the State of Illinois

Generally, individuals are not permitted to import more than one gallon of alcoholic beverages into Illinois. Illinois is has a “Three-Tier” system for the transportation and sale of alcohol, and in quantities greater than one gallon, the product must first pass from importers or manufacturers to distributors and then to retailers before finally being offered for sale to consumers.

The Commission, however, can make exceptions on a case-by-case basis for individuals who are returning or moving to Illinois from overseas with personal collections of alcoholic beverages. The following information is provided to you as a courtesy by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission and does not guarantee your request for import authorization will be granted. Each request will be reviewed by the Commission’s staff with an eye toward determining if the alcohol requested for import is of a “saleable” quality or quantity. A final determination will be made by the Commission’s Executive Director, and if appropriate, approved and issued within one or two days of receipt of the request.

Prior to requesting import authorization from the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, the United States Department of Customs should be contacted. That agency will have federal requirements for the importation of alcohol, including excise tax and duties that must be paid to the federal government. U.S. Customs will also require authorization from the state into which the alcohol is to be imported. If the final destination of the alcoholic beverage you wish to import is in a state other than Illinois, you must contact that state’s alcoholic beverage control authority, even if your imported alcohol passes through the State of Illinois. U.S. Customs will hold the imported alcoholic beverage at a port of entry until presented with authorization from the state of final destination for the product.

The importation of alcohol into the State of Illinois for personal consumption only and not for resale in any form, is allowed with: 1) prior authorization by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission; and 2) payment of the required “Use Tax” to the Illinois Department of Revenue. Both the import authorization and a receipt for the taxes paid are required for U.S. Customs officials to the release the imported alcohol from its port of entry.

A request for import authorization from the State of Illinois must be received by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission in writing (e-mail is acceptable) and must include the following information about the individual importing the beverage, and about the beverage itself:

Regarding the individual importing the alcoholic beverage:

  1. The individual's name
  2. The individual's address (the final destination of the alcoholic
    beverage)
  3. The individual's date of birth
  4. The individual's Social Security Number (or resident, visa
    number)

Regarding the alcoholic beverage:

  1. The names of the alcoholic beverages
  2. The type of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine or spirits)
  3. The number of bottles, cases, cans, etc., of each beverage being imported
  4. The amount of beverage per container (typically 750 ml per bottle of wine)
  5. The percentage of alcohol by volume (typically 9-14% for wine)
  6. The approximate dollar value per bottle, can, etc.
  7. The country or state of origin of the alcoholic beverage

Once the Commission has received this information, it will be reviewed and, if appropriate, authorization will issue. The original authorization will be sent to the address specified in the request, a copy forwarded to the Illinois Department of Revenue, and a copy retained as an official record by this office. If the importer wishes to have an additional copy faxed to another location, such as a current overseas residence, include that address in the request. At this time the Commission cannot issue authorizations over e-mail.

Finally, the person importing must remit an alcohol “Use Tax” to the Illinois Department of Revenue, a receipt for which will also be required prior to the shipment’s release from U.S. Customs. The tax will be calculated by volume and alcohol type (beer, wine or spirits). If you have questions regarding taxation issues, please address them to:

Illinois Department of Revenue
Cashier and Deposit Division
James R. Thompson Center
100 West Randolph Street, Suite C-300
Chicago, Illinois 60601
(312) 814-2620

Note that this procedure is an exception to the general prohibition against importing alcoholic beverages outside of the “three tier” system, and it is not intended to be used by individuals for bulk purchases of alcohol overseas. Under no means is any alcohol imported in the above fashion to be resold in any form. Existing Illinois licensees who import alcoholic beverages in a manner not proscribed by the Illinois Liquor Control Act are subject to revocation of their licenses. Individuals re-selling alcoholic beverages without a requisite Illinois Liquor license are subject to criminal penalties. [235 ILCS 5/10-1(a)]

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