Avoid duty tax on gifts sent stateside

By Robert Szostek
U.S. European Command Customs and Border Clearance Agency Public Affairs

U.S. law imposes a tax on imported foreign goods called duty. For U.S. personnel overseas, that means gifts sent to the States may be subject to this tax.

Foreign-made gifts are allowed duty-free entry if their retail value is under $100 and the recipient does not receive over $100 worth of foreign gifts in one day. If such a gift is over $100, the entire amount is subject to duty and a customs processing fee. Only the recipient can pay the duty and the fee.

However, American-made gifts are duty-free if they were not altered abroad in a way that increased their value.

“Many people think that gifts bought in military exchanges can go to the States duty-free,” said Tim Sellman, director of the European Command’s Customs and Border Clearance Agency, “but this is not necessarily true. The items have to be American-made to gain duty-free entry.”

The Know Before You Go pamphlet available at military customs offices has more information on mailing gifts.