MANILA, Philippines – Relief goods donated for Typhoon Yolanda-stricken Visayas are exempt from taxes and customs duties if they are coursed through government agencies or accredited organizations, according to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
In a phone interview with Rappler, BIR chief Kim Henares explained that taxes and duties will not be slapped on Yolanda (Haiyan) donations “but these are only for donations from abroad going to accredited relief organizations of DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and donations to NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council).”
The government will also shoulder the 12% value-added-tax (VAT) normally imposed on donations.
“They’re not exempt from VAT, but this will be shouldered by the government,” Henares stressed.
Lufthansa plane issue
The issue of whether or not donations should be taxed was raised after an Instagram post – which claimed that a Lufthansa plane carrying relief goods was made to wait at a hangar for unpaid customs duties – went viral.
Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon however denied the incident happened.
“This is not true,” Biazon said, insisting that the goods were immediately released and exempted from duties.
Regarding issue on German importation— pic.twitter.com/jzr0Th4x7F— Ruffy Biazon (@ruffybiazon) November 13, 2013
SMS exchange between myself and Mr. Paul Schenk, Lufthansa Country Manager. pic.twitter.com/QgSQMzxIpK— Ruffy Biazon (@ruffybiazon) November 13, 2013
The Instagram post went viral a day after the Customs bureau announced the creation of “one-stop shops” to expedite the release of donated goods from abroad.
In a customs memorandum order dated November 11, the BOC ordered all district collectors at the ports of Tacloban, Cebu and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to open one-stop shops for relief items.
The shop will be open 24 hours, 7 days a week and will hasten the processing and release of all donated goods for Yolanda victims.
For any release, only a letter of intent to donate goods, bill of Lading or airway bill, and a packing list or a commercial invoice need to be presented.
With more aid pouring in for desperate Yolanda survivors, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima deployed additional personnel from his department to man the one-stop shops of the BOC.
In a statement on Thursday, November 14, Purisima said he ordered several divisions of the Department of Finance to work on rotation to ensure 24-hour staffing for the processing of tax and duty exemptions.
“It is imperative that we ensure speedy processing of documents and requests concerning aid and donations received by the country. We do not want further backlogs in responding to the needs of our people, especially at this critical time,” he said.
The 24-hour staffing takes effect immediately for a period of two weeks until November 27.
Yolanda wrought massive destruction in the Visayan provinces, mainly Leyte and Samar, with most survivors now scouring for food amid the ruins.
Initial estimates said at least 10,000 are feared dead and economic losses are likely to reach US$15 billion. – Rappler.com
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