International passengers at ABIA will have to pay taxes on alcohol, cigarettes

International passengers at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will have to pay extra if they bring alcohol or cigarettes home with them. 

About a dozen Tax Collector Officers from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are collecting state taxes from passengers carrying those items.

Those tax compliance officers are located at the collection station in the international arrivals terminal. 

“When you fill out the paperwork and when you declare that you have alcohol that you're bringing back with you, and the customs officer learns of this either by asking you or examining your paperwork, they'll direct you to the TABC kiosk where we will assess the tax and collect it from you,” said Chris Porter, public information officer for TABC.  

This is the first time the 1977 Texas Alcohol Beverage Code is being enforced at the airport. 

“The Texas legislature requires that any alcohol that's brought into Texas from abroad must be subject to that state alcohol sales tax,” Porter explained.  

Tax compliance officers already do so at other international entry points. 

“We have, for years now, we've collected the tax on alcohol that's brought over the Texas-Mexico land border down south as well as at the Galveston Seaport where the cruise ships come in,” said Porter.  

The state taxes range from $3.25 for a six pack of beer to $5.50 for a gallon of liquor. A pack of cigarettes will cost an additional $1.50 and a carton will require taxes of $15.

“We don't expect there to be a tremendous hit on the passengers as they're coming back into Texas, but we do want to make sure they're aware of this operation,” Porter said.  

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is expanding the program to the Austin airport for four weeks before considering staffing other international airports in the state. 

“We wanted to find out what it was going to take and so that's why we wanted to do a temporary program kind of to see if we were able to do it with the resources we have in house,” said Porter.  

TABC estimates ABIA sees about 25 international flights a week with about 100 passengers per flight, so Porter doesn’t expect it to make a big financial impact. However, it could help with something else. 
“One of the reasons why we do these operations is in part to put a stop to any illicit alcohol that's brought into the country,” Porter said.  

The four-week program runs through April 21. 

TABC said they are adding signs at the airport to let everyone know about the changes. 

If TABC finds they do not have the resources to implement the program at other Texas airports, they may ask the legislature for help.