Calculating American duties on imported goods is a very difficult task. Experts spend years learning how to properly classify an item in order to determine its correct duty rate. If you want a specific estimate, you will need to call the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol or the specific American port you will be using to enter the country.
In general, however, you will have a personal exemption / allowance, and if what you bring into the country is within the personal exemption, you won’t have to pay duties. To learn more about this, visit our “What will it cost?” page.
Duties on Americans Returning to the U.S.
The amount of your personal exemption / allowance is dependent on a few factors – primarily, how long you were out of the country, and where you traveled. You will have to pay duties when you exceed the personal allowance.
For more information on how the personal exemption works, visit our page on the costs of crossing the border.
- Less than 48 hours, and/or leaving and returning more than once in a 30-day period
- Value of items: $200
- Tobacco products: 50 cigarettes and 10 cigars (non-Cuban)
- Alcohol: 150 milliliters (5 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages or perfume containing alcohol
- Note: Family members cannot combine their individual exemptions at this level, unlike the others.
- Most common – trips longer than 48 hours, anywhere other than a U.S. insular possession
- Value of items: $800
- Tobacco products: 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars (non-Cuban)
- Alcohol: 2 liters of alcoholic beverages or perfume containing alcohol.
- Trips to U.S. insular possession (U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam)
- Value of items: $1,600
- Tobacco products: 1,000 cigarettes (5 cartons)
- Alcohol: 5 liters of alcoholic beverages.
U.S. duty rates on purchases exceeding 1 liter of booze are assessed according to alcohol content; you may pay anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars for a bottle of alcohol. Tobacco products may be taxed at a flat rate (again, a few cents to a few dollars per kilogram) or a percentage of their value. For more detailed information on the personal exemption limits on alcohol and tobacco products, visit the CBP’s page on the subject.
Duties on Non-U.S. Citizens Entering the Country
A resident of another country entering the U.S. may, of course, bring in items for personal use. You’ll be charged duties if you exceed the personal exemption limits on alcohol and tobacco limits, but you won’t have to worry about the dollar amount limit on the value of your items overall.
The personal allowance is 1 liter of alcohol, and 200 cigarettes.