Alcohol and Cigarettes Are No Longer Duty Free for Cruises from Galveston, Texas

According to a report from Houston’s KHOU, passengers sailing from the Port of Galveston will be be taxed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on all duty-free liquor and cigarette purchases made during a cruise. This new state tax started in January 2014 at the Port of Galveston and will expand to the Port of Houston by mid-October 2014.

The report claims the state is working with cruise lines to notify passengers, but as one passenger mentions in the video embedded below “they advertise it as duty free on the ship and when we get off the ship, to our surprise, it is not duty free.”

This is something to keep in mind  as Disney Cruise Line will be returning to the Port of Galveston in 2015 sailing various Bahamian and Western Caribbean cruises ranging from four- to seven-nights.

Bahamian Cruise

Caribbean Cruises

TABC to begin collecting taxes at Texas seaports January 2014.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) will begin collecting personal importation taxes on alcohol and cigarettes from passengers returning from cruises in Galveston in 2014.

On January 4, 2014, cruise travelers disembarking out of the Port of Galveston will need to pay the tax for alcoholic beverages and cigarettes imported into the state that were purchased either on the ship’s duty free store or at a foreign port of call. TABC currently operates 20 ports of entry collection facilities along the Texas-Mexico border where the tax is presently collected. During the recent legislative session, the agency was appropriated funding to begin tax collection of imported alcoholic beverages and cigarettes from seaport facilities. The Galveston Port facility will be the first seaport location where this tax will be collected with plans to extend to the Houston-Bayport facility in the fall of 2014.

Section 107.07 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code, in effect for over 40 years, requires that each adult (21 years old and over) importing alcoholic beverages into the state for personal consumption pay the state tax and an administrative fee of $3.00. The law limits personal importation by an adult to once every 30 days with limits of: 1 gallon of distilled spirits, 3 gallons of wine, and 288 ounces of malt beverages (24 12-ounce containers). Persons importing alcoholic beverages must personally accompany the product as it enters the state. View our detailed list of the taxes for both cigarettes and alcoholic beverages.

Tax collection points staffed with TABC personnel will be situated at both terminals 1 and 2 at the Galveston facility located where patrons come through the U.S. Customs secondary checkpoint. Passengers will be able to pay the taxes with either cash or credit cards.

TABC personnel have worked with Port of Galveston officials to ensure that the tax collection is done efficiently and with limited disruption of port operations and delays to the passengers.

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Press Release 12/20/2013

12 Replies to “Alcohol and Cigarettes Are No Longer Duty Free for Cruises from Galveston, Texas”

  1. Drew

    Wow, poor move by Texas here. The duty-free part is the part most people care about when it comes to buying alcohol in the onboard shops. It’s not like A) you can drink it while on board, or B) they have anything terribly exclusive or unusual. Plus, buying on board adds the…mmm, fun… of trying to get your bottles home in the suitcase without breaking. Without the price break, we’re all just going to buy it at home.

  2. Jeffrey

    I was researching this tonight and this was announced in a news release on Dec 20, 2013. It also appears that it is a 40 year old state law. What is unclear so far is why did they decide to start enforcing the law.

  3. Beerman

    Still do not pay federal tax which is larger on liquor. Just drive through Louisiana its cheaper over here than you can buy on board duty free. I am going on Emerald Princess Dec 7, 2014 out of Bayport, Houston, Tx. will not affect me at all. People will stop buying on board, cruise line will show Tx no money made and is hurting business and exceptions will be passed.

  4. Beerman

    State looks as it is liquor coming into state for consumtion by people who live there and they want the excise tax. In the case of Carnival that is were 70percent of there business is from Tx. The texas liquor distributors pushed this through. One being Galizer Wholesale. One of the biggest in US. They do not like competition.

  5. Beerman

    One additional point, with repeal of the 18 amend… control of liquor was left to the states and there not 2 that have same laws and rules.

    1. Scott Sanders Post author

      Based on the press release from TABC, which has been added to the original article, the answer to your question is yes.

      “cruise travelers disembarking out of the Port of Galveston will need to pay the tax for alcoholic beverages and cigarettes imported into the state that were purchased either on the ship’s duty free store or at a foreign port of call.”

  6. Jenny Trahan

    We were on the 12/31/13 cruise out of Galveston on the Wonder and returned on 1/3/14 and TABC were at the port. DCL did a good job of distributing information to let passengers know that the State was going to be charging taxes on duty free purchases. For the most part everyone just walked past them and didn’t declare anything. I decided to claim our bottle of tequila and see what the outcome was. My memory isn’t great on exactly what we paid, I think I owed $3 and change in taxes, and they let me pay by credit card for no extra charge. They had tables set up and about 6 personnel there to process the forms and payment (on a Saturday). I find it hard to believe the State is actually making money, despite what they claim!

  7. ruth aynes

    need info on liquior laws in new orleans brinh liquior off ship from other country. amount allowed and taxes on it.

  8. martie degeer

    my wife and i were lied to by carnival cruise lines about the duty fees on liquor in texas and for being honest some of our liquor was confiscated and the whale of a customs guy was ignorant we will never embark out of texas and will never use carnival cruiselines


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