Just How Free is “Duty-Free” for American Travelers?

Just How Free is “Duty-Free” for American Travelers?

There are rules when it comes to saving on sales taxes and European VAT’s when coming back into the states. Sonia gives us the lowdown on what you’re actually saving, various rules that are in place at the border, and warning signs to look out for.

Where the real duty free savings are:

  • Booze and cigarettes (though keep reading to learn more about the liquor and wine savings to be had.)

Depending on where you’re coming from and where you’re going to.

  • Save 6 – 20% on sales tax in the states and VAT’s in Europe. Depending on the duty-free shop’s markup on the particular item you’re buying. Get a price comparison app on your phone and compare it with online sites like Amazon, Walmart, etc.

Tips to make sure you’re not getting unknowingly taxed when coming back into country:

  • If the custom’s agent doesn’t ask for your passport to prove you’re traveling internationally when it comes time to declare your merchandise, something’s off. Double check you’re not getting charged.
  • You can only be exempted from sales tax and Euro VAT’s up to a maximum of $800, so choose your duty-free items carefully.
  • Sadly, only one liter of liquor is exempted from taxes in the U.S.

What do you guys think? Is most of the items to be found at duty-free shops over-priced compared to regular online and offline retail?


Main Image: “Duty Free” by¬†Simon Greig

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