In a move that could reduce the hassle factor for gay couples and other nontraditional families, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is proposing to broaden the definitions of families and households to permit a greater number of returning U.S. residents to file a single customs declaration when returning from abroad.

Under the existing regulation, the single declaration can only be used by persons deemed to be "members of a family residing in one household" who are related "by blood, marriage or adoption."

In a notice published on Tuesday in the Federal Register, CBP said it "does not believe that the current definition encompasses other relationships where members of the public travel together as a family," adding that "the definition unnecessarily limits the number of individuals who may file a family customs declaration for articles acquired abroad."

Under the new proposal, the government would include "two adult individuals in a committed relationship, including, but not limited to, longtime companions and couples in civil unions or domestic partnerships," as well as foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings, legal wards and other dependents. The new language does not refer specifically to same-sex couples, but does not specifically exclude them.

CBP said it expects the change to enhance efficiency and allow more members of family groups to aggregate their personal exemptions for goods acquired abroad.

For most countries, the personal exemption is $800, but members of a family can aggregate the amount, regardless of which individuals purchased the items.

Public comments are being accepted through May 29. Further information and instructions for filing comments online are available at www.regulations.gov. Refer to docket USCBP 2012-0008.

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