Importing Wine & Spirits to the U.S.

by Jennifer Leigh - Updated September 26, 2017
Importing spirits into the U.S. requires federal permits.

Many entrepreneurs import wine and spirits into the U.S. due to the wide variety available in the world. Jamaican rums, wines from France's Bordeaux region and Russian vodka would not be well known and accessible in the U.S. if importing had not been occurring for some time. Importing wine and spirits is not a difficult process once you find a supplier that you are interested in working with. However, the task does require a lot of paperwork and organization.

Apply for or provide proof of your Employer Identification Number from the IRS in order to begin the application process for importing alcohol into the U.S. Importers must have a business office in the U.S. and have at least applied for an EIN before beginning the applications for permits to import alcohol. Information on this number can be found on the IRS website.

Fill out the Importer's Basic Permit, TTB Form 5100.24, titled Application for Basic Permit Under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act. This form can be found on the website of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Mail your completed Form 5100.24 to:

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, National Revenue Center 550 Main Street, Room 8002 Cincinnati, OH 45202

Attach a contract or letter of intent with your foreign supplier, if you are a first time importer of alcohol into the U.S., to your basic permit application.

Complete and send form TTB F 5630.5(d), titled Alcohol Dealer Registration to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. This step is not necessary until your basic permit has been approved and received.

Obtain a Certificate of Label Approval, also known as COLA, for each product being imported. This is done by filling out form TTB F 5100.31 and sending it to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau's Advertising, Labeling and Formulation Division. This may also be done online through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau's website.

Ask you state's Alcohol Control Board about requirements that they have regarding the import of alcohol into your state. These requirements vary from state to state. Check with local authorities to find out about any requirements for importing alcohol that you may be facing. Again, these vary considerably depending on the region.

Visit the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to find out about fees you will be responsible for paying when importing items into the U.S.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau's website regarding importing. Verify that you have completed all the necessary steps to begin importing wine and spirits into the U.S. Once completed, begin importing and selling your products.

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