Types of Exemptions
If you cannot claim other exemptions because:
- You have been out of the country more than once in a 30-day period or because
- You have not been out of the country for at least 48 hours.
You may still bring back $200 worth of items free of duty and tax. As discussed earlier, these items must be for your personal or household use.
If you bring back more than $200 worth of dutiable items, or if any item is subject to duty or tax, the entire amount will be dutiable. For instance, you were out of the country for 36 hours and came back with a $300 piece of pottery. You could not deduct $200 from its value and pay duty on $100. The pottery would be dutiable for the full value of $300.
You may include with the $200 exemption your choice of the following: 50 cigarettes and 10 cigars and 150 milliliters (5 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages or 150 milliliters (5 fl. oz.) of perfume containing alcohol.
Note that unlike other exemptions, family members may not combine their individual $200 exemptions. Thus, if Mr. and Mrs. Smith spend a night in Canada, each may bring back up to $200 worth of goods, but they would not be allowed a collective family exemption of $400.
If you are arriving from anywhere other than a U.S. insular possession (U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam) you may bring back $800 worth of items duty free, as long as you bring them with you. This is called accompanied baggage.
For Caribbean Basin or Andean countries, your exemption is also $800. These countries include:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Virgin Islands
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Netherlands Antilles
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
You may include two liters of alcoholic beverages with this $800 exemption, as long as one of the liters was produced in one of the countries listed above. Please see the Sending Purchases from Insular Possessions and Caribbean Basin Countries- Duty-Free Shops page for more information.
Depending on what items you're bringing back from your trip, you could come home with more than $800 worth of gifts or purchases and still not be charged duty. For instance, say you received a $700 bracelet as a gift, and you bought a $40 hat and a $60 color print. Because these items total $800, you would not be charged duty, since you have not exceeded your duty-free exemption. If you had also bought a $500 painting on that trip, you could bring all $1,300 worth of merchandise home without having to pay duty, because fine art is duty-free.
If you return directly or indirectly from a U.S. insular possession (U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam), you are allowed a $1,600 duty-free exemption.
As long as the amount does not exceed what that state considers a personal quantity*, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will allow you to enter the U.S. with up to five liters of alcohol duty-free as part of your $1,600 exemption - as long as at least four liters were purchased in the insular possession, and at least one of them is a product of that insular possession. Additional bottles will be subject to a flat duty rate of 1.5% and subject to Internal Revenue Service taxes.
Please note, only one liter of alcohol purchased in a cruise ship's duty-free shop is eligible for a duty-free exemption, although if at least one bottle purchased on board is the product of an eligible Caribbean Basin country**, then you will be allowed two liters duty free. If you buy five liters of alcohol in - say - the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), and one of them is the product of the USVI, then you would have reached your duty-free limit. Any additional purchases made on board in a duty-free shop would be subject to CBP duty and IRS tax.
If you buy four bottles in the USVI, one of which is a product of the USVI, then you could purchase one additional bottle from the onboard duty-free, and it would be eligible for duty-free entry.
* Most States restrictions on the amount of alcohol that can be brought into that State apply only to residents of that State. Usually people transiting a state are not subject to those restrictions, but sometimes regulations change, and if this is a matter of utmost importance to you, you can check with the state Alcohol Beverage Control Board where you will be arriving to find out what their policies are.
** Most Caribbean Basin countries are considered beneficiary countries for purposes of this exemption. (Anguilla, Caymen Islands, Guadeloupe, Martininque and Turks and Caicos are not eligible)