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Shopping Abroad: Duty Free, Gifts, Household Items

Duty Free Shops

Goods purchased in a duty free shop are not automatically free of duty upon your return to the U.S. Personal exemptions - or the value of goods that do not require the traveler to pay duty will be $200, $800 or $1600 depending on the countries visited. At entry level, you may include only very limited amounts of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products in your duty free personal exemption.

Gifts

  • All items you receive as gifts while abroad and items you buy to give as gifts must be declared.
  • Gifts may be included in the value of your duty free personal exemption.
  • Gifts for business or commercial purposes may not be included in your duty free personal exemption.
  • Gifts worth more than $5 that contain alcohol, tobacco products and perfume containing alcohol may not be included as gifts in your duty free personal exemption.

Do not gift wrap items you carry or send into the United States; they may need to be unwrapped during inspection.

Sending vs. Carrying Gifts and Other Items

  • 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. If the gifts are sent from Guam, American Samoa or the U.S. Virgin Islands, the duty and tax-free gift amount rises to $200.
  • Alcohol and tobacco products may not be sent duty free as gifts.
  • Gifts sent home do not have to be declared on CBP Declaration Form 6059B or the CBP officer when returning to the United States.

Mark the outside packaging of gifts sent home with:

  • "Unsolicited Gift;" if sending gifts for more than one person in the package, add "Consolidated Gift Package"
  • The total value of the consolidated package Recipients' names
  • To be duty free, each item may not exceed $100. The traveler must list the nature and value of gifts being mailed.

If sending new items for personal use, similarly mark the package with the nature and value of the items. Duty will be waived if the value is $200 or less. If more, duty may be assessed by the parcel carrier.

Household Items

Items used in your household abroad are duty free if:

  • You used them for at least one year while abroad.
  • They are not intended for anyone else or for sale.
  • Clothing, jewelry, photography equipment, electronics and vehicles are personal effects and cannot be brought or mailed duty free as household effects. Duty is usually waived on personal effects more than a year old. You must pay duty for all vehicles.
  • Whether purchased or received as gifts, prohibited items may never, by law, enter the United States. While they may seem innocent, the banned products can pose risks to human, animal or plant health. Also, the prohibited item(s) may break U.S. trade laws.
  • Be cautious when buying from street vendors. If the merchandise is counterfeit (a fake) or unsafe, you may have to surrender it to CBP officers upon your return home.

Virtually all foreign made medications are prohibited from being brought into the United States. For more information on Coverage of Personal Importations please visit the FDA website. 

Last modified: 
June 18, 2018