I'm moving to Pennsylvania in the US from abroad and own a somewhat-valuable collection of alcohol which I would be bringing with me. Most of the (labeled) bottles are not sealed, so I am tentatively assuming that customs wouldn't treat it as a commercial import. However, if one wants to bring a cache of alcohol into the US for personal use, one has to comply with both federal and state import laws. Moreover, it seems that Pennsylvania has some very strange laws about alcohol in general, and the only information I could find online explicitly about importing alcohol is a PDF from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which states:

It is generally unlawful for anyone, other than the PLCB or the holder of a sacramental wine license, an importer’s license, or a direct wine shipper license, to import any liquor (including wine) into Pennsylvania.

However, the same document states that there is some allowance for "gifts" to residents:

One of the exceptions found in the PLCB’s Regulations allows for liquor given to persons residing in this Commonwealth by nonresidents to be imported into Pennsylvania at the discretion of the PLCB. 40 Pa. Code § 9.41. In order to lawfully import liquor into Pennsylvania pursuant to this exception, an application for importation and an application for the payment of tax on the liquor must be filed with the PLCB’s Bureau of Product Selection by the intended gift recipient (i.e., the person importing the liquor). 40 Pa. Code §9.51. In addition, a service charge must be paid to the PLCB and any state taxes must be paid. 40 Pa. Code §§ 9.52, 9.54. After receiving the application and the corresponding fees, and upon being satisfied as to the truth of the statements contained in the application, the PLCB may, in its discretion, grant and issue a consent certification permitting the importation of liquor. 40 Pa. Code § 9.53.

Now, what does this mean for people becoming resident in Pennsylvania from outside the US? — What does someone actually have to do to bring alcohol from outside the USA into Pennsylvania as a new resident? What port of entry would be responsible for import duties if I e.g. fly into Chicago and then transfer to Philadelphia? Moreover, regardless of where my actual "port of entry" is, if I end up having to satisfy Pennsylvania's import regulations, would I be "gifting" myself the goods? I've brought alcohol into the US from abroad numerous times, but never to Pennsylvania and also never this much (I estimate about 10 liters in total).

In fact, I would prefer to ship it via post, but it seems that doing that is legally dubious as well, and I'd rather get stopped and have to deal with the problem at the airport rather than having to drive to some customs center in the middle of nowhere and have to pay a huge fine either to import it or to even just give it up (from my experience, in the US, when bad stuff like this happens, you have to pay even if they confiscate it... and they might even charge you for the time they hold it).

Is this really as Byzantine as it looks?

  • 2
    @dda Editing is completely unnecessary: "becoming resident" is grammatical and has legal significance, and removing "e.g." makes the statement too specific to be of use. Don't edit to change the meaning of a question. Feb 3, 2018 at 12:34
  • Even if it's not a commercial import, you will still owe import duties and excise tax under federal law, which you'll have to pay at the point where you enter the US (Chicago in your example). How the state law will be enforced, I don't know. Feb 7, 2018 at 15:27
  • What kind of alcohol - beer, wine, spirits, something else? The laws are different, as well as the duty and tax rates. Feb 7, 2018 at 15:27


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