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Information on Beverage Alcohol Samples for the United States market

Are you planning to import Beverage Alcohol Samples? or need samples to import a trade show? or need to review a new winery to import?

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Importing Samples for Trade Shows and/or for Soliciting Orders

Samples of alcoholic beverages imported strictly for use at trade shows and/or for soliciting orders may, under certain conditions, be imported without a certificate of label approval (COLA). Importers of such samples may apply for a waiver from the COLA requirements from TTB in the form of a letter request.

The letter must include:

The specific type and quantity of each alcohol beverage. "Type" for wine means identification as "red wine", "white wine", "sparkling wine", and/or identification with a varietal if the wine is so labeled; for distilled spirits, the type means, for example, "rum," "brandy," "vodka," etc., as appropriate; for malt beverages, type means "beer," "ale," "porter," etc., as appropriate.

  • The country of origin of each product
  • The brand name of each product
  • The purpose for importing the samples (if for a specific event, include dates and location)
  • The Federal Importer’s Basic Permit number
  • The letter must also include a statement that the following conditions will be met:
  • The products will be imported by the holder of a Federal Importer’s Basic Permit
  • All applicable taxes and duties will be paid

A sticker will be affixed to every container (bottle or box) which reads, "For Trade Show (or Sample) Purposes Only – Not for Sale"

A label will be affixed to every container which bears the Health Warning Statement in accordance with 27 CFR Part 16
In the case of wine, an additional label will be affixed which reads, "Contains Sulfites"

The products indicated in this letter will be in compliance with the labeling requirements above prior to the product arriving at the U.S. port of entry.

A template of this letter is available for download – Template (MS Word).

You may e-mail or fax the letter request to the address or fax number below.

Fax: (202) 453-2970

Please note that is the responsibility of the importer to ensure that the product in question does not enter into interstate or intrastate commerce without having received an approved Certificate of Label Approval (COLA).

If you have any questions, please contact the International Trade Division at (202) 453-2260, or by e-mail at

This notice supersedes previous notices, articles, or instructions.

Pre-Import Analysis

TTB must perform a product evaluation of certain imported alcohol beverage products before issuing a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA). Since TTB does not have access to foreign production plants, some imported products are subject to either laboratory analysis or a pre-import letter approval. The Industry Circular, titled "Pre-COLA Product Evaluation" (2007-4), lists all imported alcohol beverage products that require laboratory analysis. An alcohol beverage importer in the United States who has been issued an import permit by TTB, and wants to import alcohol beverages that require laboratory analysis must submit the following to the laboratory:

A 750-ml sample of the product.

A list of ingredients of the product submitted on the official letterhead of the manufacturer, signed, and dated (if in a foreign language, submit the original along with a copy of the English translation). Please note that a report of chemical analysis for a product is not a substitute for a "list of ingredients." The "list of ingredients" is a list of the materials used to manufacture the product (e.g., agricultural source of alcohol, additives, colors, herbs, and spices, etc.).

A description of the manufacturing method of the product submitted on the manufacturer's official letterhead, signed, and dated (if in a foreign language, submit the original along with a copy of the English translation).

The BAL is now accepting TTB F 5100.51 with pre-COLA sample submissions. However, a list of the ingredients and the method of manufacturing on the producer's official letterhead is still required to accompany the submission. This form may now be submitted electronically through Formulas Online.

A copy of the TTB-issued Basic Importers Permit is required for first-time importers.
Submit all pre-import samples along with documentation to: National Laboratory Center, Beverage Alcohol Laboratory, 6000 Ammendale Road, Beltsville, MD 20705.

The Beverage Alcohol Laboratory sends a letter to the importer confirming receipt of the sample. Incomplete or incorrect submissions will be returned for further information from the importer, which may delay the sample analysis. Analysis may take up to 30 calendar days from the date of receipt of all complete/correct documents. Upon completion of the analysis, the Laboratory sends a report to the Advertising, Labeling and Formulation Division (ALFD) for further processing.

5010 Tax Credit

Under 26 U.S.C. 5001 and 7652 a tax is imposed on all spirits produced in or imported into the United States at $13.50 per proof gallon. Wines containing more than 24 percent of alcohol by volume are taxed as spirits. A credit against this tax is allowed under 26 U.S.C. on each proof gallon of alcohol derived from eligible wine or eligible alcohol-containing flavors which do not exceed 2.5 percent of the finished product on a proof gallon basis.

Eligible wines are other than standard (OTS) wines that have not been subject to distillation at a distilled spirits plant and that contain no more than 0.392 g of carbon dioxide per 100 ml. Eligible flavors are those that have been approved by the Nonbeverage Products Laboratory. The producers or importers of distilled spirits are eligible to apply for this credit if the distilled spirits contain an eligible wine and/or eligible flavor.

How To Apply

A producer or an importer may apply for 5010 Tax Credit for a product by submitting the following to the National Laboratory Center, Beverage Alcohol Laboratory, 6000 Ammendale Road, Beltsville, Maryland 20705:

An official letter from the producer or importer disclosing information on the finished product (e.g., base distilled spirit, eligible wine and/or eligible flavors).

Calculation of effective tax rate for each finished product.
Samples of the finished products, base distilled spirit, eligible wine, and/or eligible flavors in volumes of 500 ml to 750 ml each.

After receiving all of the above items, the laboratory completes the use rates verification of the wines and flavors within 30 working days. The laboratory report is forwarded to the Regulations & Rulings Division (RRD) for further processing. RRD notifies the producer or importer of the final TTB decision.

Alcohol Beverage Sampling Program (ABSP)

Under ABSP, TTB monitors the regulatory compliance of the post-market alcohol beverage and nonbeverage products. Annually, TTB staff collects samples that are statistically selected from retail shops located throughout the United States, and sends them to the Beverage Alcohol Laboratory and Compliance Laboratory for analysis. The sample analysis usually takes about 30 days from the date the laboratory receives the samples.

Please Note: This is not a legal advise of a US Govt advise, please contact TTB for updated and accurate information.

Source: TTB

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