MYTH: A consumer can legally buy wine at auction and bring it into Maryland.
FACT: An individual is prohibited from bringing more than one bottle bought at auction at a time into Maryland and no more than two a month.
Maryland generally prohibits the importation of alcohol into the state except under very specific circumstances. In order to legally bring in wine bought at auction, an individual must fall under one of several exceptions to this prohibition. The primary exception only applies to individuals or entities that obtain a commercial license to import alcohol. Distributors with such licenses are free to buy wine at auction and import it into the state. This exception, however, does not help the average individual who buys wine at an auction. Such individuals must try to fall under a second set of exceptions which allow consumers to import wine for personal consumption.
The Comptroller of the Treasury, who administers the alcohol tax, set forth an official interpretation of the consumer importation prohibitions found in Code of Maryland Article 2B and Tax-General Title 5.1 In an Administrative Release, the Comptroller stated that a consumer who is over the age of 21 may only bring one quart of wine (not more than two quarts in a calendar month) into Maryland from another state. This limit is raised to one gallon of wine when returning from a foreign nation or the American territories. Maryland’s limitation applies even though the property purchased at auction is personal property and thus makes it impractical to legally bring a case of wine bought at auction into Maryland. In order to bring wine legally into Maryland purchased at an out-of-state wine auction, a consumer would have to bring it back bottle by bottle, making sure not to exceed the monthly caps. After all this work to legally bring the case of wine into the state, the consumer is still strictly limited on what s/he can do with the imported wine. The wine must have been imported by the consumer for ‘personal consumption’. As such, the wine cannot be given away as a gift or resold by the consumer at a later date.
- 'Restrictions on Import Of Alcoholic Beverages', Administrative Release AB1, Maryland Comptroller of the Treasury, January 2004.