Can You Ship Alcohol via the USPS or UPS?

Can You Ship Alcohol via the USPS or UPS?Say, you want to surprise a friend who lives out of state with a nice bottle of wine or expensive liquor. What is the best way to do this? Can you ship alcohol via the USPS or UPS, or do you need to find other ways to get your surprise delivered to them?

Shipping alcoholic beverages within the United States is exceptionally tricky, especially as a private individual. The United States Postal Service (USPS) lists alcohol among prohibited items and classifies intoxicating liquors with 0.5 or more alcoholic content as nonmailable matter. Exceptions may be made only for products that contain an intoxicating liquor and conform to the applicable IRS and FDA requirements, such as cold remedies, cooking wine, and mouthwash.

If the USPS is not an option, what other options do you have (if you have any)? Is it possible to ship alcohol via UPS, FedEx, or another courier company? The thing is, the shipment of alcoholic beverages within the United States is heavily regulated. There are federal regulations imposed by the IRS, FDA, and other relevant bodies, and on top of them, there are state regulations stemming from the 21st Amendment which ended Prohibition, but also gave each state the power to enact own laws regarding the production, distribution, and sale of alcohol.

Because of these strict and sometimes confusing regulatory restrictions, which can get even more confusing when you need to ship alcohol from one state to another, UPS and FedEx accept shipments of alcohol only from licensed shippers. This means that alcohol can be shipped by businesses that sell alcoholic beverages, as long as they have a proper license, but not by private individuals. And even licensed shippers cannot send alcohol to states that do not allow its import.

So, this means that if you want to gift your friend a bottle of alcohol, you cannot simply buy it at the nearest liquor store and then ship it yourself. Your best course of action would be to find an online store that sells the beverage you need and ships it to the state where your friend lives, buy the drink there, and have it shipped to your friend by the store, i.e. a licensed business that knows the ins and outs of shipping alcohol. Keep in mind that packages containing alcohol require adult signature; this means that the recipient must be over 21 and present proof of age to receive the package.

But what about shipping alcohol internationally? In this situation, there are even more rules and regulations to follow. Vendors usually have to get two different licenses, one for the country of origin and the other for the destination country, plus there are unique import rules, taxes, customs rules and regulations, and other things to take into account.

And again, we’re talking about businesses here; shipping alcohol internationally is illegal for consumers. If you want to surprise a friend living abroad with a bottle of alcohol, the easiest and safest way to do this is to find a local vendor that will accept your card and deliver your order to its intended recipient.

So, the answer to the question of “Can you ship alcohol?” is both simple and not. If you’re a consumer, it is a resounding no: it is illegal for private individuals to ship alcohol within the United States and from the United States abroad. If you are running a beer, wine, or liquor business, the answer is yes, but you will have to jump through many hoops and make sure you follow all the applicable rules and regulations to a T.

And one more thing: don’t ever try to ship alcohol discreetly, especially via the USPS. If this gets discovered, you will be facing a fine and maybe even imprisonment because liquor trafficking is a federal offense that can result in imprisonment for up to one year.