Importing Alcohol with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

Importing Alcohol with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

Did you know that of the world’s top ten most popular alcohols, only one originates in the United States? That means that if you’re merchandising alcohol, it’s highly likely you’ll be importing it. There are four federal agencies that regulate the import of alcoholic beverages, but today let’s talk about the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, commonly abbreviated as the TTB.

What counts as alcohol? 

Since you’ll need permits to import alcoholic beverages, it’s important that your idea of “alcohol” and the government’s idea of it are the same. 

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau include “distilled spirits, wines or malt beverages” in their definition of alcohol. The Federal Alcohol Administration Act standardized the definition of “wine” to wines at 7% alcohol by volume. 

Get your permits 

To import alcohol, you’ll need a permit from the TTB, which you can apply for online or by mail. There are a few forms you need to fill out, typically a standard wholesaler’s permit, and it takes about six weeks for your registration to process. 

You’ll also need to comply with the FDA’s set of requirements for alcohol imports. Foreign alcohol makers must register with the Food Facility Registration Regulation (talk about a mouthful), so check the registry for the maker of whatever alcohol you’re importing and get their reference number. 

Importing Alcohol with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau 2Get your paper documents

In addition to your other requirements, you’ll need to have a detailed commercial invoice that lists the purchase price, the origin country, and the tariff classification of your goods. You’ll also need a packing list, a bill of lading, and an arrival notice. Have your invoice ready at the customs port.

Obtain a Certificate of Origin

If you’re going to sell alcohol, obviously it needs to be labeled correctly. Through the TTB, you’ll need a certificate of origin that states the country the alcohol was produced in, the age of the beverage, and the alcohol content. This certificate determines your duty rate, so don’t forget it. 

Meet label requirements 

The TTB must pre-approve your alcohol’s labels and issue your business a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) before you can import, so apply for a COLA online on the TTB’s website. Depending on the alcohol, you may be required to submit a sample for review.

Making it to customs

After you’ve filed all your permits, approvals, and customs (check the TTB’s website for more details on everything we’ve talked about), your alcohol is ready to go through customs. File entry for your goods under the Remote Location Filing Prototype and the Electronic Invoice Program, which are both managed through the U.S. Customs Agency. Have the codes you receive available for the customs officer. 

There are other details to filing for the import of alcohol, but these are the fundamental steps that will get you started bringing foreign alcohol into the United States using TTB regulations. If your business needs a partner in your imports, NEDRAC can assist in the importing of distilled spirits, wines or malt beverages for your business. Contact us by calling us at (800) 366-1204 emailing us at We look forward to serving you.

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