Customs issues guidelines on sending balikbayan boxes

Published October 18, 2020, 11:39 AM

by Hanah Tabios

As the Christmas season draws closer, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) reiterates the guidelines in sending balikbayan boxes to the Philippines. 

These packages can be sent even by corporations, partnerships, and sole proprietors, but the BOC said qualified Filipinos while abroad (QFWA) can only avail of the duty- and tax-free privilege under the Section 800 (g) or the Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act 2016 (CMTA). 

The law states that sending of balikbayan boxes by QFWA to their families and relatives is also exempt from payment of duties and taxes up to three times and the total freight on board (FOB) or free carrier arrangement (FCA) value of which, shall not exceed P150,000 in a calendar year. 

“Any amount that exceeds the allowable value is subject to payment of duties and taxes,” the BOC said. 

The QFWA classifications covers Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) with valid passports issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), certified by Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for overseas employment. 

This also includes Filipinos under job contracts not requiring certification from the foregoing. Non-resident Filipinos with permanent residency abroad but have retained Filipino citizenship are also covered by the guidelines, as well as resident Filipino citizens that may include holders of student visa, investors’ visa, tourist visa, and similar visas which allow them to establish temporary stay abroad.

“To avail (themselves) of this privilege, the Bureau also reminds Filipinos that balikbayan boxes should contain only personal and household effects such as wearing apparel, personal adornment, gadgets, and toiletries to qualify for the tax exemption. Goods which are in commercial quantities and those intended for sale, hire, or barter, are not covered by the duty- and tax-free privilege,” it added. 

The QFWA or sender shall submit an accomplished information sheet, photocopy of a biographical page of passport or other identification cards (IDs) indicating citizenship, and invoice or receipt if available, to an international forwarder or consolidator.

The hired international forwarder or consolidator shall then submit all documents, including Information Sheets, to the BOC and Philippine forwarder or deconsolidator in a secured electronic format.

The Philippine forwarder or deconsolidator shall also submit all documents, including the Information Sheets, received from the consolidator, to the BOC in a secured electronic format. 

In line with the BOC’s drive to promote transparency and ease of doing business, the Parcel and Balikbayan Tracking System was also launched last October 2019 to render a more efficient means of tracking parcels and balikbayan boxes accessible through

“Senders are highly encouraged to utilize the system which will provide updates about their shipment as it goes through the different stages of customs clearance,” the BOC said. 

As the volume of such shipments increase during the holiday season, the BOC also reminds the public to be cautious in sending their packages and parcels. 

“OFWs and claimants are advised to support legitimate and accredited forwarders to avoid the possibility of being scammed by fly-by-night operators,” it added.