Can you send alcohol in the mail? | delivery rules

In today’s interconnected world, sending gifts and goods across the globe has become a common practice. However, when it comes to mailing alcohol, the process is not as straightforward as one might think. The regulations surrounding the shipment of alcohol are complex, varying not only from country to country but also between different states and territories within the same nation. This article, “Can You Send Alcohol in the Mail?”, dives deep into the intricacies of these regulations, offering a comprehensive guide that demystifies the legal landscape surrounding the postal delivery of alcoholic beverages.

Our exploration is grounded in thorough research and consultation with legal and postal experts, ensuring that the information provided is both accurate and up-to-date. We understand the importance of navigating these regulations correctly, not only to avoid legal repercussions but also to ensure that your special gift arrives safely and as intended. Whether you’re a small business owner looking to expand your distribution, a family member wanting to send a bottle of wine as a birthday gift, or simply curious about the legalities of mailing alcohol, this article is designed to provide valuable insights.

By elucidating the often confusing policies of major courier services and the postal system, as well as offering practical advice on how to legally ship alcohol, this piece aims to be your go-to resource. So, if you’ve ever wondered about the do’s and don’ts of sending alcohol through the mail, or if you’re seeking solutions to do so legally and safely, you’re in the right place. Let’s embark on this informative journey together, unraveling the complexities of alcohol shipment and turning the seemingly daunting task into a manageable one. Stay with us as we navigate through the legalities, restrictions, and best practices that will empower you to mail alcohol with confidence and compliance.

Overview of Federal and State Regulations

Overview of Federal and State Regulations

Federal Alcohol Shipping Laws

The federal agency that regulates alcohol shipping is the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Under TTB regulations, individuals can mail alcohol domestically as long as:

  • The sender and recipient are adults of legal drinking age in their state.
  • The alcohol is for personal use only, not for resale.
  • All applicable excise taxes have been paid.
  • The shipment is handled by a licensed carrier.

State-Specific Alcohol Shipping Regulations

In addition to federal laws, each state implements its own alcohol shipping policies. There are 3 categories of states:

  • Reciprocal states allow residents to ship alcohol to and from other reciprocal states.
  • Limited states permit wine shipments but not spirits. Some require purchasers to obtain permits.
  • Control states have strict regulations and generally prohibit incoming shipments.

It’s crucial to research the specific laws for both the sender’s and recipient’s states before attempting to ship alcohol. Violating state policies can result in legal penalties.

Can You Legally Mail Alcohol in the US?

Shipping alcohol domestically is allowed under federal law, but states implement a patchwork of laws that ultimately determine the legality of alcohol shipments.

  • In reciprocal states, it is legal for individuals to ship alcohol as long as both the sender’s and recipient’s states permit it.
  • Limited states allow direct-to-consumer wine shipments but prohibit liquor.
  • Control states generally ban incoming shipments of alcohol altogether.

Bottom line: Check both the sender’s and recipient’s state alcohol shipping laws before mailing alcohol.

In Which States is it Illegal to Mail Alcohol?

There are 13 states that ban residents from receiving direct shipments of all alcohol. These “control states” are:

  • Alabama
  • Delaware
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Montana*
  • New Hampshire*
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah*
  • Vermont*
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming*

*Allows wine shipments with special permit

Even sending alcohol from a reciprocal state into a control state can result in legal repercussions for the sender. Take extreme caution and research both states thoroughly before attempting delivery.

Preparing Alcohol for Shipping

To legally and safely mail alcohol, specialized packaging and labeling is required.

Packaging Requirements

Alcohol must be packed to prevent leakage and damage:

  • Use bubble wrap or foam inserts around all bottles and cans.
  • Separate containers with cardboard dividers.
  • Fill empty space in the box with packing peanuts or air bags.
  • Seal the box securely with packing tape.

Labeling and Documentation

Clear communication is necessary to alert the carrier and recipient:

  • Label the box “Alcoholic Beverages: Adult Signature Required.”
  • Include your return address and the recipient’s contact information.
  • Enclose handling instructions like “Fragile” and “This Side Up.”
  • Prepare an invoice to list the package contents and their value.

Shipping Alcohol Within the United States

If allowed under state laws, there are a few options for mailing alcohol domestically.

Mailing Alcohol In-State

For intrastate deliveries, you can legally use:

  • USPS: Only allowed in limited states if certain criteria are met.
  • Private carriers: UPS, FedEx, and DHL permit in-state wine shipments.

Always check with the carrier regarding their specific policies before attempting delivery.

Mailing Alcohol Out-of-State

For interstate alcohol shipping between reciprocal states:

  • USPS: Federal law prohibits USPS from shipping alcohol across state lines.
  • Private carriers: UPS and FedEx permit interstate shipments to reciprocal states.

Which Carriers Will Ship Alcohol?


Wine Shipping

Spirit Shipping


Limited states only



Most states



Most states

Most states


Some states


Policies frequently change so verify carrier guidelines before packaging any alcohol.

How To Mail Alcohol with USPS?

USPS shipping rules are restrictive but allow limited wine shipments within reciprocal states if these criteria are met:

  • Sender and recipient must be adults of legal drinking age.
  • The package must contain wine only, no beer or liquor.
  • Contents must be labeled “Wine” or “Glass”.
  • Maximum allowable quantity is 1 gallon per adult.
  • Shipping label must require an adult signature upon delivery.

USPS cannot mail alcohol to control states or internationally.

How To Mail Alcohol with UPS?

How To Mail Alcohol with UPS?

UPS permits wine shipments to destination states that allow incoming wine deliveries. Key UPS requirements:

  • Sender and recipient must be 21 or older.
  • Package contents must be declared as “alcohol” or “wine.”
  • Adult signature is required upon delivery.
  • UPS does not ship beer or spirits.

Packages over 1.5 gallons require additional licensing and paperwork. Review all UPS guidelines thoroughly before shipping.

How To Mail Alcohol with FedEx?

FedEx has the most lenient alcohol shipping policies among major carriers:

  • FedEx ships both wine and distilled spirits.
  • No adult signature is required in most cases.
  • FedEx permits shipping to all but 3 states: Utah, Mississippi, and Alabama.
  • Inventory manifest and commercial invoice must be included.

FedEx alcohol shipping has fewer restrictions but is generally more expensive than other carriers.

Age Verification and Legal Considerations

To legally mail alcohol, steps must be taken to confirm recipient age and adhere to all applicable laws.

Age Verification Process

  • Minimum 21 years old: Sender and recipient must provide valid ID proving legal drinking age.
  • Adult signature requirement: Delivery driver verifies recipient’s age upon delivery.
  • Contact recipient in advance: Confirm they will be available to accept and sign for the package.

Legal Penalties for Non-Compliance

Violating alcohol shipping laws can result in stiff penalties:

  • Federal fines up to $1000 per violation.
  • Criminal charges for repeat violations.
  • Loss of mailing privileges with USPS and common carriers.
  • License revocation for businesses.

Always research state and federal laws thoroughly to avoid illegal shipping activity. Both sender and recipient can be held accountable.

Shipping Alcohol for Personal Use vs Business

There are important distinctions between mailing alcohol for personal reasons compared to business purposes.

Guidelines for Personal Shipments

Private individuals can legally mail limited quantities of alcohol if:

  • The alcohol is not for resale.
  • The shipment is between consenting adults.
  • Applicable excise taxes have been paid.
  • State laws allow the delivery.

Common examples are sending wine as a gift or mailing your own supply when moving.

Special Considerations for Businesses

Companies shipping alcohol must:

  • Obtain proper state and federal licenses.
  • Collect and remit excise taxes.
  • Adhere to strict inventory reporting requirements.
  • Follow additional packaging and labeling regulations.

Businesses should consult with legal counsel to ensure full compliance with alcohol shipping laws. Penalties for violations are severe.

Tax Implications of Shipping Alcohol

Taxes represent a significant portion of the cost of purchasing and shipping alcoholic beverages.

State Alcohol Excise Taxes

Most states levy alcohol excise taxes between $0.50 – $3 per gallon of wine or spirit. The tax rate depends on the recipient’s state.

  • The seller must collect applicable state taxes from the purchaser.
  • State excise taxes are in addition to standard sales tax.

Federal Alcohol Excise Taxes

The federal excise tax rates per gallon are:

  • Wine: $1.07
  • Beer: $3.50 for most beers
  • Spirits: $13.50

Federal alcohol taxes are collected by the TTB. Private shippers of alcohol are responsible for remitting any taxes owed.

Shipping Alcohol Internationally

Alcohol shipments abroad face even stricter regulations than domestic delivery.

Customs and Import Duties

Importing alcohol across international borders involves:

  • Tariffs levied based on product type and value.
  • Required import licenses and permits.
  • Separate customs clearance process.
  • Inventory excise taxes.

International Shipping Regulations

Each country implements unique laws and restrictions:

  • UK permits personal wine shipments. Business imports require licenses.
  • Australia allows personal alcohol imports up to AUD$1,000 duty free.
  • Canada prohibits personal alcohol shipments altogether.

Always research the destination country’s specific importation rules before attempting international alcohol shipping.

Alternatives to Mailing Alcohol Yourself

Given the complex patchwork of alcohol shipping regulations, having alcohol delivered by a specialty service can be an easier and safer option.

Alcohol Delivery Services

Companies like Drizly and Minibar specialize in compliant alcohol delivery:

  • Legal licensing to transport alcohol.
  • Driver age verification at delivery.
  • Compliance with state and federal laws.
  • Expansive inventory from local suppliers.
  • Convenient delivery tracking.

Local Purchase Options

Purchasing alcohol after arriving at your destination avoids any mailing legality altogether:

  • Buy in-person at local liquor stores and markets.
  • Order alcohol delivery through Drizly/Minibar.
  • Visit wineries, breweries, distilleries selling direct to consumer.
  • Use restaurant pick-up/take-out alcohol options.


While complex, mailing alcohol domestically is permitted in many cases if the proper protocol is followed. Individuals can legally send alcoholic gifts and move wine collections by understanding regulations and using reputable shipping methods. Businesses face extra licensing and reporting requirements. Consulting state and federal resources to ensure full compliance is always adviseable before endeavouring to ship alcohol yourself.

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