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1. $12,000 is allowed per year, to each person2. Lump sum or multiple payments is fine, as long as it does not exceet $12,000.3. IRS form 709 only needs to be filled out if the amount exceeds $12,000.
This page gives a few more details, including other transactions with family members:http://www.smartmoney.com/tax/homefamily/index.cfm?story=gifttax
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There is no income tax due from beneficiaries upon receipt of a gift regardless of the amount.
Donors can make gifts of up to $12,000 per calendar year without filing requirements. Thus your parents can give you (or anyone else for that matter) up to $24,000 without filing gift tax returns.
If taxable gifts exceed this amount, a gift tax return must be filed. There is no gift tax due until lifetime taxable gifts made exceed $1,000,000.