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Wednesday, May 22, 2024


The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would lift the ban on the re-importation of duty-free cigarettes to the mainland.
The bill, which has been in effect since January, now must clear the Senate before Congress adjourns for the year.
Delegate to Congress Donna Christian Christensen said the legislation passed on Tuesday night, called the Tariff Suspension and Trade Act of 2000, "moves the Virgin Islands one step closer to permanently fixing the problem that threatened territorial revenues from duty free cigarette sales."
The measure is expected to pass the Senate before Congress adjourns later this week.
"I remain hopeful that the Senate will indeed pass this measure, although I know that the bill can get caught up in political wrangling," Christensen said, adding that she "remained confident that the leadership in the Congress and the White House will do whatever they can to support the efforts of the Virgin Islands."
In February the Source learned that cigarettes and tobacco products with the "for export only" stamp being sold to tourists in the Virgin Islands were being confiscated at points of entry in the United States. The tourists were told to put their cigarettes into bins as they went through Customs. The tourists were caught in a law aimed at preventing large commercial wholesalers from re-importing tobacco products.
American cigarettes brought into the territory for resale are exempt from the Internal Revenue Tax and from duty. But a 1997 law made it illegal to bring American tobacco back into the country if it bears a stamp saying it was originally sold for export only. The 1997 law was not implemented until January.
In April, a federal judge ordered the Treasury Department to stop enforcing the ban if the cigarettes were being brought to the U.S. for personal use. The personal-use limit is five cartons of cigarettes.
That injunction bought the territory time to have the 1997 legislation reworded so that it doesn’t lose approximately $20 million per year in revenue.

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