Duty-free shopping gives international travelers a fun, convenient way to find fantastic deals on a wide variety of products, ranging from leather goods to fine jewellery to premium liquor. However, to maximize the cost savings, buyers should understand the laws affecting this special type of shopping.
Duty-free rules vary by country, with policies ranging from simple and flexible to complex and rigid. To learn about a country's duty-free laws, try contacting its customs or border patrol agency. Or, call a travel agency, duty-free shop or airline located in that country.
For travelers heading into the United States, here are some general rules to consider.
What U.S. Travelers Should Know
If you're a U.S. citizen returning home after staying at least 48 hours in a foreign land, you typically may bring $800 of duty-free merchandise into the country. If you exceed that limit, you'll pay a 3 % surcharge on the next $1,000 worth of purchases. Those with over $1,800 of merchandise must pay a tax of up to 25% on the amount that exceeds this limit.
Americans with a foreign visit of less than 48 hours may usually import only $200 of duty-free merchandise. After that, the next $1,000 worth will be taxed at a 3% rate. Amounts over $1,200 are assessed a surcharge of up to 25%.
When traveling with family members who live in the same home, you can combine exemptions. For example, a family of three may bring a total of $2,400 into the country on a duty-free basis. However, children aren't given a tobacco or alcohol exemption, so parents must stay within their own limits on these items.
Items such as alcohol and tobacco products carry special restrictions that vary depending on where you bought the merchandise. Generally speaking, however, U.S. citizens may import up to one liter of alcohol and one carton of cigarettes on a duty-free basis.
Frequent travelers should be aware that exemptions are valid on a monthly basis. Once you've reached your $800 duty-free limit, you'll need to wait 30 days before claiming another exemption.
Visitors to the United States who are staying in the country for at least 72 hours typically may import $100 of duty-free goods, and must pay a surcharge on anything over this threshold.