Understanding Galveston’s TABC Alcohol & Cigarette Tax

If you take a cruise from Galveston, be prepared for a little surprise when you get back — a tax on alcohol or cigarettes that you bring back. The tax is levied by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).

For many Galveston cruise passengers, th is tax is the last thing they were expecting and it leaves a bad taste in their mouth. That’s for several reasons: First, the tax is collected right as you leave the cruise terminal. That means the last interaction passengers have with the Galveston terminal is paying the state a tax.

Second, when most cruise passengers bought items in port on on the cruise ship from duty-free stores. These stores offer deals on alcohol and cigarettes precisely because they aren’t taxed like when you buy these items at home. So when you return to port, it’s like getting a tax bill after the fact.

Finally, the tax — levied by a State of Texas organization — applies to all alcohol and cigarettes bought by anyone, not just Texas residents. So even if you don’t live in Texas, you are still hit with the Texas tax.

So how much is the tax? And how do you pay?

Paying the Texas Alcohol Tax

When you set sail, you’ll receive a form like the one below. It outlines all the rules for bringing alcohol and cigarettes back into the Port of Galveston.

Specifically, you can bring back a maximum of:

  • 24, 12 oz bottles (or equivalent) of beer or malt beverages
  • 3 gallons of wine
  • 1 gallon of liquor or distilled spirits

Note that these are total amounts. So if you want to bring back 24 bottles of beer and a gallon of rum, that’s ok. But you can’t bring back 25 beers, even if you bring nothing else. You’d be limited to 24 beers.

There are no (reasonable) limits on cigarettes.

Here are the tax rates for beverages and cigarettes. Remember, these amounts apply to everything your bring in from a cruise, no matter if it was bought a duty-free store or not.

Texas alcohol tax form

Half pint (200 ml)…..$3.25
Pint (500 ml)…..$3.50
Fifth (750 ml)…..$3.50
Quart (1 liter)…..$3.75
Half gallon (1.75 liters)…..$4.25
Gallon (3.79 liters) …..$5.50

6, 12 oz……$3.25
12, 12 oz……$3.25
24, 12 oz…..$3.50

Fifth (750 ml)…..$3.25
Gallon (3.79 liters) …..$3.75

Pack …..$1.50
Carton (10 packs)…..$15.00

Paying the TABC Tax in Galveston

As we mentioned earlier, you pay the TABC tax as your last stop in the cruise terminal. You will disembark with any alcohol or cigarettes that you bought in your luggage. As well, you should fill out the TABC form provided before exiting the ship.

After making your way through immigration upon disembarking, you will see signs for the TABC booth as you exit. There will also be a person asking if you are bringing back any alcohol or cigarettes and directing people to the booth.

The tax in Galveston is payable in either cash, or with Visa or Mastercard. There is also an ATM available if you need to get cash for the payment.

One last thing to note — because the tax collection booth is off to the side and passengers aren’t checked for alcohol or cigarettes (it seems to run more on the honor system), it’s tempting to just skip the tax payment altogether. That’s a bad idea.

According to the TABC website, “failure to pay the tax and obtain the appropriate stamp will subject violators to a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000 and/or a jail term of up to one year.”

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