U.S. Approval for international importation of alcoholic beverages is a multi-stage process and involves both Federal and State agencies. Other local agencies may be involved depending on the type of license which is sought.
A license to import alcohol to the United States is limited in its scope, which is why it is important to talk to an international business law attorney to determine what licenses and permits your specific business needs, as simply obtaining an importer’s license may not be enough.
Your Company Must Be Registered to Do Business in Order to Import Alcoholic Beverages
In order to import alcoholic beverages through a company, then you must first make sure that the company is legally registered to do business in Florida (if your company will be doing business in Florida) as well as any other state in which the company will import alcohol or conduct business. An experienced business attorney will assist you in determining which states you are doing business in and, therefore, the states in which your company will need to register.
What Type of Permit Do I Need?
Businesses who want to import alcoholic beverages to the US will need to apply for an Importer’s basic permit. You need to apply for this permit before you begin to conduct business, as you will need to have your permit approved in order to properly operate the business. The wait time for an alcohol license as of September, 2014, is at least 65 days, but this timeframe could be longer if there is an influx of applications. Therefore, it is recommended that you apply for an alcohol import license at least 3 months before you want to open the doors of your business.
If you are planning to sell alcoholic beverages other than those you are directly importing, then you must apply for a Wholesaler’s Basic Permit, and there may be additional licenses needed depending on your specific situation. Here at Boyer Law Firm, our experienced international law attorneys can assist you in obtaining the various licenses you need to start your business.
Similar to Federal permits, you may be required to obtain more than one license to operate your business in Florida. A Florida importer’s license for alcoholic beverages will NOT allow for you to sell the products directly to vendors or consumers. There are separate licenses that apply to these circumstances.
A Florida importer’s license will allow a business to act as a middle-man between a manufacturer and a Florida distributor. If you want to do more than act as the middleman, it is important that you tell your attorney so that all of the proper licenses are applied for. Failure to adhere to these requirements could be detrimental to your business.
You will also need to obtain various licenses and permits, such as a local business license, from your local government. The types of licenses you will need will vary according to your specific business situation.
FDA Approval – Federal
The producer from which the importer is obtaining the alcoholic beverage must be registered with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and it is the importer’s duty to ensure this is the case. Additionally, the importer must provide the FDA with advanced notification of the importation.
Label Approval – Federal
Each unique product or label for alcoholic beverages imported to the US must be approved by the Federal government through a specific process in order to obtain a certificate of approval. This process ensures the products are labeled according to Federal laws and regulations before being introduced to the US market.
What Taxes Am I Required to Pay to Import Alcoholic Beverages?
Importers are no longer required to pay the Special Occupational Tax, but they are required to file a registration before starting to import alcoholic beverages to the U.S.
Importers must pay all applicable Federal excise taxes and duties to U.S. Customs. In Florida, there are also applicable state taxes, and there may be applicable local taxes depending on where you are conducting business in Florida.