Shipping Gifts Into The US? Here Is What You Need To Know

Shipping Gifts Into The US? Here Is What You Need To Know

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.

Tips for Sending Gifts from a Business to a Business

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 circumstances 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.

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About Author
Misty Gibbins

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.

While we strive for accuracy in all our communications, as the Importer of Record it is incumbent upon your company to ensure that you are aware of the requirements under the new regulations so that you maintain compliance as always.
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