overseas Filipinos

Here’s how to send tax-free balikbayan boxes on holidays


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Here’s how to send tax-free balikbayan boxes on holidays
If you're a Filipino abroad hoping to send a balikbayan box for the holidays, here are tips and documents that can help

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) may now worry less about global shipping prices this holiday season because the Bureau of Customs (BOC) still extends privileges to exempt duty and taxes in sending home balikbayan boxes.

In 2020, the BOC released its amended general provisions for the consolidated shipment of duty and tax-free balikbayan boxes, under Republic Act No 10863, otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). 

The agency grants the tax exemption of sending balikbayan boxes up to three times in a calendar year (the period from January 1st to December 31st of a year). However, as per BOC’s administrative order, the privilege is only limited to qualified Filipinos while abroad (QFWA).

Who are the QFWAs?

To be qualified of tax and duty exemptions when sending your balikbayan boxes home, you must possess any of the following criteria:

  • You are an OFW with valid passports, certified for overseas employment by the Department of Labor and Employment and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration;
  • You are a non-resident Filipino with permanent residency abroad but have retained Filipino Citizenship; and
  • You are a resident Filipino citizen with student visa, investors’ visa, tourist visa, and/or similar visas that allows you to establish temporary stay overseas. 

Sole proprietorships and juridical entities, including cooperatives, corporations, and partnerships are not vested with the same privilege, but can still send their balikbayan boxes. Previous or Non-Filipino Citizens, or those who chose to give up their Filipino citizenships, are also ineligible as QWFAs.

How can you avail of the tax exemption?

For your balikbayan box to be duty and tax-free, you must observe the following guidelines before sending it home:

  1. The total value should not exceed P150,000. Any amount that exceeds the value will be subjected to payment of duties and taxes.
  1. The box must contain only personal and household effects. Personal effects are new or used commodities for personal consumption and not for commercial purposes, including wearing apparel, personal adornments, electronic gadgets, and toiletries. Household effects are household furnishing intended for personal use, such as furniture, dishes, linen, and libraries. 
  1. Items should neither be in commercial quantities nor intended for barter, sale, or for hire. Commercial quantities refer to the excess in “what is compatible with and commensurate to your normal requirements” for personal use. For single senders with multiple consignees (receivers), these quantities are determined by the total quantity of all sent boxes to all consignees. 

The forms needed to accomplish in availing the exemption are: Deconsolidator’s Application Form, Information Sheet, Certificate of Compliance, and the Information Sheet Details, alongside a photocopy of your passports biographical page and invoice or receipt, if any. Upon the availment, a processing fee of P250 will be collected by your consolidator. 

These requirements should be sent to an international forwarder or consolidator abroad to transmit the documents to the BOC’s deconsolidator or freight forwarder in the Philippines. You can check the list of seafreight forwarders accredited by the Department of Trade and Industry here

The BOC also launched its parcel and balikbayan tracking system in 2019 to promote transparency and efficiency of tracking Balikbayan boxes and other packages. You can track your Balikbayan boxes by putting the tracking number or the lading number bill on the Customs website. 

The first measure of CMTA covered the “de minimis” value of importation in 2016 valuing from P10 to P10,000. De minimis is the value of goods for which no duty or tax is collected. This means that all Balikbayan boxes valuing below P10,000 are mandatorily exempted from duty and taxes but only QWFAs are exempted to goods ranging from P10,001 to P15,000 in value. — Chris Burnet Ramos/Rappler.com

Chris Burnet Ramos is an intern for Rappler. He is a graduating student from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Manila taking up Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. 

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