I'm about to visit my family in the US, and want to take some gifts. I see that there is a $100 gift exemption, no duty payable if my gifts are valued below $100.

I'm trying to decide between taking only some of the gifts, to the value of, say, $99 or taking all the items, which will probably sum to about $160.

I will honestly fill in the customs declaration in either case, stating the price I paid for the items. However I don't have receipts (mistake, I can see that now) for all the items, some of which were bought very cheap at the Toys R Us closing sale.

I've got no issue in paying any duty I'm liable for, but I want to avoid two kinds of hassle:

  1. Undue delay. I have connecting flights, what should be plenty of time, but I don't want to be caught up in some lengthy delay.
  2. Having to justify my valuations.

Anybody got experience of the process for paying duty? How much hassle have you seen? Would I do best to keep the value under $100?

  • Is mail an option? Because your $100 exemption is per person in that case. Apr 7, 2018 at 20:26
  • In this instance I would like the fun of taking the gifts by hand.
    – djna
    Apr 8, 2018 at 7:23
  • 1
    You're worrying yourself over nothing at all. $166? You think a customs officer is going to waste his/her time trying to value which at a glance will not cost more than say a $1000? They have better things to do. Even if your truthfully indicated more than $100, most will likely ignore it. The reward for the inspector is not worth the time. Apr 8, 2018 at 15:10
  • It's a two level inspection. At the exit gate most travellers are waved though. Some are selected (Usually the folks with undeclared food detected by the sniffer dogs. Yes really!) There you have officers with all the time in the world, they don't have many people to process. I'm seeking experience. People declaring small amounts over $100 do seem to be waved through. I am interested to hear about the experience of anyone who has needed to pay duty, what level of delay was incurred.
    – djna
    Apr 10, 2018 at 8:37
  • I often arrive in the USA with alcohol over duty free allowance. Always declare it to Customs, never was asked to pay any duty. The reaction was in range from being frown upon "you know you're bringing too much for duty free?" to "next please". Really doubt Customs would bother with calculating and imposing duty for $60.
    – George Y.
    Apr 11, 2018 at 0:22

1 Answer 1


"Gifts" is a very generic term. Is it liquor/alcohol that might be dutiable, or is it clothes or an iPhone? You are not carrying these items to sell in the US, and you are probably not carrying 100 bottles or alcohol or 100 iPhones in original packages so probably answer NO. $100 is nothing noone's gonna worry about that. I've had my checked bags searched multiple times and had perfume bottles (for myself, not as gifts), a laptop, some brand new clothes and noone bothered. My cabin bag was also checked and I had a iPad, brand new headphones, a perfume bottle that was in a clear ziploc bag, and they didn't bother. In fairness I could've told them truthfully that these were all personal items but it never came to that.

In my exp, customs officials are interested more in fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, seeds, and agricultural stuff, than someone who has 2 personal laptops, 2 phones, 3 perfume bottles etc.

  • 1
    Thanks, I value experience over logic, so hearing about yours was helpful.
    – djna
    Apr 19, 2018 at 0:39

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