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When sending padala to your family and loved ones in the Philippines, you fill your Balikbayan Boxes with your hard-earned presents and souvenirs for them to enjoy. This has been an inherent tradition among Filipinos to bring home goodies like clothes, food, groceries and appliances from other countries. So depending on your budget or amount of things you want to send home, usually you fill up the box throughout the year and wait for the holidays before shipping them. However, the government regulates packages that enter the country and subject the items accordingly to taxes and duties. 

With that said, here’s everything you need to know to avail your Duties and Tax-Free Balikbayan Box Privilege:

#1  – GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION

In the case of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) or Filipinos living abroad, they may apply for tax exemption on packages with a cumulative value of up to Php150,000 by presenting ID requirements to the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

The BOC eased the ID rules on Tax-Free Balikbayan Box Privilege, through the Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 18-2018 on October 11, 2018. This was after the previous rules from the superseded CMO No. 04-2017 were heavily criticized by the OFW Community for having tedious requirements to process for tax exemption.

#2 – ANYONE CAN SEND BALIKBAYAN BOXES BUT…

Whether it is a corporation, partnerships or sole proprietors, everyone can send balikbayan boxes to the Philippines. However only Qualified Filipinos Working Abroad (QFWA) may apply to avail duty and tax-free privilege on their packages.

QFWAs fall under the following categories:

  1. Valid passport holders issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and certified by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) or the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)
  2. Non-resident Filipinos who established permanent residency abroad but retained Filipino Citizenship.
  3. Resident Filipino citizens temporarily staying abroad, usually with a student, tourist or investor’s visa.

Compared to presenting the Philippine Passport to prove Filipino Citizenship, the following identification documents are allowed for submission to the BOC in photocopies:

  1. Biographical page of valid Philippine Passport.
  2. Biographical page of valid Foreign Passport with mention of Dual Filipino Citizenship.
  3. Permanent Resident ID or equivalent overseas that proves Filipino Citizenship.
  4. Overseas Employment Certificate or Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Card.
  5. Work Permit.
  6. Unified Government ID issued by DOLE.
  7. Any document proving Filipino Citizenship except birth certificate.

Filipinos who chose not to retain their citizenship are subject to duty and import taxes, as well as foreign nationals, given that they exceed the de minimis import value of Php 10,000.

#3 – YOU’LL ONLY BE TAXED WHEN…

QFWAs are required to send their balikbayan boxes only to families up to the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity (see chart for reference), if they wish to qualify for tax exemption unless they meet below the de minimis import limit.

There is a limit of 3 in sending Balikbayan Boxes within one calendar year and not exceeding the cumulative value of Php 150,000 to avoid duties and taxes. Furthermore, the contents are limited to personal and household effects; not sent in commercial quantities for barter, sale or hire, unless it meets the de minimis importation threshold. See our list of what you can send in a Balikbayan Box. If you’re not sure what to send, here’s our top 10 Balikbayan Box items.

#4 – THE CURRENT STANDARD OF PROCEDURE

When you qualify for duty and tax-free privilege, there is no need to submit commercial invoice of goods unless available. However the following needs to be done to ensure smooth processing of your balikbayan boxes:

  1. Make sure that your goods meet the requirements and are packed correctly.
  2. Prepare the required documents (Filipino Citizenship Identification and Invoices where needed) and fill the necessary forms for submission (Information Sheet for the BOC).
  3. Duplicate the documents into 3 sets (one for the sender a.k.a you, one placed on top of the box and one for consolidator to forward to the BOC. 

The government assures that those who cooperate will not subject their Balikbayan Boxes to derogatory information or tagged as “No Suspect” after they are cleared from mandatory non-intrusive inspections (X-ray scanning). The boxes will not be opened or subject to any physical examination.

#5 – THE IMPORTANCE OF RELIABLE FREIGHT FORWARDERS

We’ve already shared a guide on how to choose a freight forwarder, but one of the main reasons that the Bureau of Customs imposed the tariffs are to avoid any illegal activities from entering the country. There are now stricter penalties for corrupted freight forwarders and consolidators (international and Filipino) who will use Balikbayan Boxes as means to smuggle products that do not meet the requirements for duty and tax-free privilege and importation of goods. Prosecutors will be subject to criminal charges or cancellation of registration under Section 1401 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act . So make sure to choose a reliable and trustworthy freight forwarder to send your Balikbayan Boxes to the Philippines.

Metro Box Cargo is a freight forwarding services company established in 2013 with two main offices – at Hayward, CA in the United States and at Teachers Village in Quezon City in the Philippines. Founded by Egay Tajonera, and his wife Mabelle, they are passionate in providing exceptional service to the Filipino community. Our company provides personalized, reliable, on-time customized door to door service for balikbayan boxes, container shipments, loose cargo and odd-sizes shipments. We also offer vehicle shipping services for cars and motorcycles.

We have locations in northern and southern California: our two main warehouses are located in Hayward and Santa Fe Springs, and our five drop off locations can be found inside Island Pacific stores. Feel free to call us toll-free at 1-855-355-6387, on Facebook, via email at metroboxcargo@gmail.com, or through our website’s Contact Us section for any questions or concerns; Or just stop by at our office. For more details, please visit our website at www.metroboxcargo.com.