For income tax purposes the gift is not taxable income regardless the amount - as a recipient of the gift you do not need to claim it as income. There is no any amount limit. Please see for reference IRS publication 525 page 30 - http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p525.pdf
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$12,000 annual exclusion is for gift tax purposes only. The donor - if he/she is an US person - would be required to file gift tax return if the gift is more than $12,000 per person per year (for 2007). There will not be any gift taxes unless lifetime limit of $1,000,000 is reached. In your situation the donor would have to pay gift taxes. There is an unlimited gift tax exclusion available to pay someone's medical or educational expenses.
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