In line with the mandate by the Bureau of Customs on balikbayan boxes sent by overseas Filipino workers, a ranking official of the agency answered the common question being asked by concerned individuals traveling to the Philippines.
“Which items in my luggage are considered taxable?”
In a news report by GMA 7, no tax is imposed on balikbayan box if it is accompanied by a passenger, and its worth does not exceed P10,000 equivalent, according to the Bureau of Customs.
Traveling Filipinos and foreign visitors to the Philippines are exempt from paying tax duties:
1. Used personal effects in a non-commercial quantity
2. Wine and spirits not exceeding two bottles
3. Tobacco and cigarettes not exceeding 200 sticks
4. Cosmetics and perfumery not exceeding one bottle
But more specifically, OFWs traveling to the Philippines are also entitled to tax-free of using electric or electronic appliances for one item of each kind.
Once the value of content in a balikbayan box exceeds the prescribed amount, an ad valorem tax worth 50% of each item is charged to the passenger.
“The policy of the Bureau of Customs is a bit liberal,” said Deputy Commissioner Art Lachica, referring to how the agency charges items that are seen as obviously worth above the P10,000 tax-free limit.
For unaccompanied balikbayan boxes or those sent through consolidators abroad, tax duty is imposed if the value exceeds US$500. BoC currently charges freight forwarders with tax charges for every container filled with these balikbayan boxes. In return, these companies pass on tax charges to customers who avail of their freight services.
Referring to the Philippine Consulate General on Sydney’s website, the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP) mandates that all items brought into the Philippines are subject to import duties. Items, including used items, brought to the Philippines as parcels mailed through the Australian Post or sent through courier services (LBC, DHL, Fedex, etc.) are subject to tax.
The rate of import duty varies depending on the commodity imported, ranging from 3 to 50%. The schedule of rates is listed under Section 104, Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP), as amended.
While it is uncommon, according to BoC, that balikbayan boxes are charged after it arrives at their consignees in the Philippines, those that are deemed to exceed the US$500 value are slapped with additional tax duties.
Lachica said the rates depend on the type, as well as the condition of items.
Items are tax-free if they fall under de minimis, or items whose declared value falls at P10, a very low value under the law that has not been changed since 1957.
Currently, the Philippines has the lowest de minimis threshold, or the minimal volume of declaration of goods in the customs for consignments, in the ASEAN, at PhP10 or US$0.23. The ASEAN average threshold is a hundred dollars.
To address the issue, BoC is pushing for the Customs modernization act which proposes to adjust de minimis to P10,000, according to Lachica.
With the moratorium on the random opening of balikbayan boxes, the BoC admits it becomes more difficult to assess the value of items inside each balikbayan box.
Nonetheless, the Bureau of Customs advises the public to report instances of violation (Email: email@example.com, Twitter: @customsPH, Facebook: Bureau of Customs Public Assistance and Complaint Desk)