Gifts you bring back for your personal use must be declared, but you may include them in your personal exemption. This includes gifts people gave you while you were out of the country, such as wedding or birthday presents, and gifts you have brought back for others.
Also note that by federal law, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and perfume containing alcohol and worth more than $5 retail may not be included in the gift exemption.
Gifts worth up to $100 may be sent, free of duty and tax, to friends and relatives in the United States, as long as the same person does not receive more than $100 worth of gifts in a single day. If the gifts are mailed or shipped from an insular possession, this amount is increased to $200.
Unless returning to the United States from an insular possession, you don’t have to declare gifts you sent while you were on your trip, since they won’t be accompanying you.
Gifts for more than one person may be shipped in the same package, called a consolidated gift package, if they are individually wrapped and labeled with each recipient’s name. Here’s how to wrap and label a consolidated gift package.
Be sure to mark the outermost wrapper with the:
- Words “UNSOLICITED GIFT” and the words “CONSOLIDATED GIFT PACKAGE;”
- Total value of the consolidated package;
- Recipients’ names and
- Nature and value of the gifts inside. For example, tennis shoes, $50; shirt, $45; toy car, $15.
To John Jones—one belt, $20; one box of candy, $5; one tie, $20.
To Mary Smith—one skirt, $45; one belt, $15; one pair slacks, $30.
If any item is worth more than the $100 gift allowance, the entire package will be dutiable.
You, as a traveler, cannot send a gift package to yourself, and people traveling together cannot send gifts to each other. But there would be no reason to do that anyway, because the personal exemption for packages mailed from abroad is $200, which is twice as much as the gift exemption.
Your personal belongings can be sent back to the United States duty-free if they are of U.S. origin and if they have not been altered or repaired while abroad. Personal belongings like worn clothing can be mailed home and will receive duty-free entry if you write the words “American Goods Returned” on the outside of the package.
If a package is subject to duty, the United States Postal Service will collect it from the addressee along with any postage and handling charges. The sender cannot prepay duty; the recipient must pay duty when a package is received in the United States.
For more information about mailing packages to the United States, visit the page called “Sending Goods to the United States” (Sending Items Back to the United States) at the Customs and Border Protection website. Make sure you get the latest information before your travel.