Shipping Gifts into the US: What You Need to Know | PCBUSA (2024)





Christmas time is here at last, bringing with it a host of holiday-related border-crossing questions. In fact, some of these might be what brought you to this blog in the first place.

  • How much do you have to pay for gifts crossing Customs?
  • Which goods or gifts are exempt from Customs duty in the USA?
  • What about business-to-business (B2B)? What if it’s for personal relations?
  • When shipping gifts into the USA, what items need to be declared at Customs?
  • What are the Customs limits for bringing goods into the US?
  • Is there a personal limit for US Customs imports?

This year, we’re giving you the gift of clarity on some of these issues with a few helpful tips to make your holiday imports a bit smoother.

Gifts Sent via Commercial Courier or Carrier

You’ll find that Customs limits can be relatively flexible when bringing business-to-business goods and gifts into the US. Typically, gifts shipped via commercial courier get duty-free clearance up to $800, provided the shipment meets all Partner Government Agency (PGA) requirements and does not include any items that are prohibited or heavily restricted. As always, make sure you know before you go.

Is My Shipment Subject to Participating Government Agency Review? Download the Guide.

Any gift amount higher than $800 will require a US Customs invoice and entry payment of relevant duties and taxes that might come from PGAs or their regulations. It also may be held until the clearance can be arranged.

So, if you’re splashing out to ship a costly gift into the US, be sure to contact your friendly Import Team here at PCB.

Need a US Commercial Invoice? Download Yours Here.

We also encourage you to check out the international shipping guide provided by USPS for more details on their requirements.

Government Agency Regulations?

Many popular gift options are open to a wide range of additional criteria before crossing. For example, chocolates, candy, and other food products require further review by a PGA. However, this shouldn’t suggest that only gifts containing food and beverage items might require more scrutiny. Some, like alcohol, tobacco, perfume with alcohol in it, and even dirt that often accompanies plants might leave you with more trouble than they are worth.

It is vital to check and see what agencies might regulate the gift item you plan on sending before you end up overpaying in duties and tariffs.

Gifts Sent to Family and Friends

It might be tempting to believe that the goods exempted from Customs duty in the USA as a B2B gift might have similar rules for shipping gifts to family and friends. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and the guidelines surrounding these kinds of gifts are often more restrictive. For example…

Gifts Sent by Mail

The limit for more personal duty-free gift-giving across US Customs is $100, so long as that 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, it is then increased to $200, but always remember alcohol, tobacco, dirt from certain plants, and perfume containing alcohol cannot be sent as gifts duty-free no matter what the circ*mstances that surround them are, so shop and ship accordingly.

Gifts Sent by Mail for More Than One Person

Gifts for more than one person may be shipped in the same package, provided they are each individually wrapped and labeled with each recipient’s name.

The outermost wrapper must be marked in the following way:

  • With the words “Unsolicited Gift” and “Consolidated Gift Package”
  • With the total value of the consolidated package
  • With the recipients’ names
  • With the nature and value of the gifts inside. For example, tennis shoes, $70, shirt, $45, toy car, $15

Remember, what items need to be declared at Customs in the USA can be as important as how they are declared. Your finished gifts should end up being marked something like the following:

  • To Amos Cheville, one belt, $20; one box of candy, $8;
  • To Machesa Lacretio, one skirt, $45, one belt, $15

It is worth noting that if any of these items exceed the $100 gift allowance, the whole package is dutiable - so import with intention.

Reminder: if a package sent by mail is dutiable, the US Postal Service will collect the duty from the person receiving the gift along with any postage or handling due, so be careful not to give the gift of additional charges this holiday season.

Personal Gifts Sent by Courier or Carrier

How much you pay Customs on gifts to the US is a much more flexible number if they are sent by courier or carrier. Doing it this way allows for up to $800 USD in value to cross free of duties and taxes. That is, of course, if the items do not contain prohibited or regulated articles. For personal shipments, however, this limit is restricted to one shipment addressed to a person per day.

Prohibited and Restricted Items

We have talked a lot about prohibited or restricted items, mainly because it is a popular way to ruin Christmas for the giver and potentially the receiver. It is worth familiarizing yourself with the list of prohibited or restricted items - particularly if you intend on importing them into the United States.

Prohibited Items

These items are forbidden by law to enter the US.

A few examples of ‘gifts’ that are prohibited include:

  • Toys deemed as dangerous
  • Cars that don’t protect their occupants in a crash
  • Game meats
  • Illegal substances

Restricted Items

These items require a special license or permit granted by a federal agency before they can enter the US.

Some examples include:

  • Firearms
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Certain fruits and vegetables
  • Animal products
  • Animal by-products
  • Certain animals

While prohibited items are out this holiday season, restricted items are possible, provided you go through the appropriate steps. Regardless, you will end up paying duties on these despite them being gifts.

We hope you found these tips helpful, and for further guidance regarding the shipment and import of gifts, we recommend the Partner Government Agencies Import Guides and the US Customs and Border Protection Basic Importing/Exporting Guide for rulings and regulations from those agencies. If you have any other questions or queries, we encourage you to contact our Import Services team 24/7.

Share this post

About Author

Shipping Gifts into the US: What You Need to Know | PCBUSA (2)

Misty Gibbins


Senior Trade Advisor

Pacific Customs Brokers Inc.

Misty has been working in the brokerage business for 36 years. She was the manager of the Blaine Office of Peace Bridge Customs Brokers for nine years, before coming to Pacific Customs Brokers Inc. US operation. Misty has worked in the trade compliance group at PCB for the past 13 years. She is currently the Senior Trade Regulatory Analyst, which involves keeping up with trade related regulatory changes.

Shipping Gifts into the US: What You Need to Know | PCBUSA (2024)


Do you have to declare gifts when entering the US? ›

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.

Do you have to pay customs on gifts USA? ›

Do I need to pay duty or taxes on gifts sent to the USA? You can send gifts to America up to the value of $100 free of duty and taxes.

How do I avoid import tax on gifts? ›

The sender must be a private individual and the recipient must accept the delivery at a private address. The gift must be sent free of charge and of an 'occasional nature' The word 'gift' must be marked on the air waybill and commercial invoice along with the actual detailed description of what the gift is.

What is the value of gifts allowed into the US? ›

Read more at the U.S. Customs website . A non-resident may bring gifts totaling $100 in value to the U.S. duty free. Any gift items over that amount will be dutiable at the same rates as gifts exceeding $800 for a returning resident (see next paragraph).

What must be declared at US customs? ›

Travelers must provide their full name, date of birth, address, and passport details in the personal information section. In the declaration of goods section, they must list and describe all items they bring into the country, including personal belongings, gifts, and purchases abroad.

How much can I send to the USA without paying duty? ›

Thus, any articles imported under this section for personal use with a value of under $800 can be imported duty free, and any articles imported for personal use with a value between $800 and $1800, will be subject to a flat 4% duty rate.

How do I send a gift to the USA? ›

Shipping To USA

Your present to America can be delivered in as quickly as 2-5 working days with express courier. Royal Mail postal services will take 5-10 days. The USA is strict about what goods it lets into the country.

How much foreign gift is tax free in USA? ›

The thresholds in the United States to receive gifts from a foreigner include any gifts received that exceed the annual exclusion of $100,000 from a non-resident alien or foreign estate must be reported.

Do you have to pay customs to ship to the USA? ›

Do I have to pay duty on items shipped to the US? Yes. Any goods valued over $800 USD (de minimis value) are subject to import duty tax. However, items valued below $800 are exempt from duty, unless they fall under the De Minimis exception list.

How do I avoid US gift tax? ›

6 Tips to Avoid Paying Tax on Gifts
  1. Respect the annual gift tax limit. ...
  2. Take advantage of the lifetime gift tax exclusion. ...
  3. Spread a gift out between years. ...
  4. Leverage marriage in giving gifts. ...
  5. Provide a gift directly for medical expenses. ...
  6. Provide a gift directly for education expenses. ...
  7. Consider gifting appreciated assets.

Are gifts to non US citizens taxable? ›

Non- US domiciliaries are subject to US gift tax only on transfers of tangible personal property located in the US and real property located in the US. There is an annual exclusion from US gift tax for “present interest” gifts.

How much can you gift in the US without tax? ›

The IRS allows every taxpayer is gift up to $18,000 to an individual recipient in one year. There is no limit to the number of recipients you can give a gift to.

What is the gift exemption for US customs? ›

Do not gift wrap items you carry or send into the United States; they may need to be unwrapped during inspection. Gifts worth up to $100 may be sent - free of duty and tax - to U.S. friends and relatives if one person does not receive more than $100 worth of gifts in one day.

What is the US gifting threshold? ›

Annual gift tax exclusion

The gift tax limit is $17,000 in 2023 and $18,000 in 2024. Note that this annual exclusion is per gift recipient. So you could give away the limit to several different people in a single year and still not have to file a gift tax return and possibly pay the gift tax.

What is the US gift exemption? ›

Annual Gift Tax Exclusion

The IRS allows individuals to give away a specific amount of assets or property each year tax-free. For 2024, the annual gift tax exclusion is $18,000, meaning a person can give up to $18,000 to as many people as he or she wants without having to pay any taxes on the gifts.

Do you have to declare gifted items? ›

You do not need to declare cash gifts you receive on a self assessment tax return. There may be inheritance tax implications for you and the person who has given you this gift, particularly if the donor (giver) of the cash gift dies within seven years of making the gift.

Do gifts need to be declared? ›

(In fact, charitable donations are often tax deductible.) Even if you make gifts to another family member who is not your spouse, a friend, or a business associate, they are not taxable under federal guidelines, until their cumulative value exceeds $15,000 (for 2021).

What happens if you don't declare items at US Customs? ›

Once the property is not declared, Customs will generally seize it at the time. Some days or weeks later, you should receive a notice of seizure letter by U.S. mail.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Golda Nolan II

Last Updated:

Views: 6083

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (58 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Golda Nolan II

Birthday: 1998-05-14

Address: Suite 369 9754 Roberts Pines, West Benitaburgh, NM 69180-7958

Phone: +522993866487

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Shopping, Quilting, Cooking, Homebrewing, Leather crafting, Pet

Introduction: My name is Golda Nolan II, I am a thoughtful, clever, cute, jolly, brave, powerful, splendid person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.