Solon bats for tax-free privilege for OFWs’ balikbayan boxes

Overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) may enjoy tax- and duty-free balikbayan boxes if this House bill, authored by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, is passed into law.

Inspection of balikbayan boxes by Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz (Ali Vicoy/MANILA BULLETIN)

House Bill (HB) No. 6752, or “An Act instituting the Expanded Balikbayan Program, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 6768, as amended by RA 9174, and for other purposes” provides that balikbayans would be entitled to ship home one box a month, which would be exempt from payment of taxes and duties regardless of the value of its contents.

At present, the tax-exempt value of items sent by overseas Filipinos to their families back home under Bureau of Customs (BOC)

rules is limited to only P150,000.

Rodriguez noted the average of 400,000 balikbayan boxes received by families and relatives of OFWs and other Filipinos abroad per month.

“These balikbayan boxes serve as the enduring testament of their sacrifice and hard work in order to secure a better future for their families back home,” he said in a statement.

“They represent their love and care for their families, who have to endure months or even years of separation from each other,” the lawmaker added.

READ: Customs clarifies rules on sending duty-free and tax-free balikbayan boxes

The draft measure would also require the BOC to use “non-intrusive” methods such as x-ray or through the use of sniffer dogs in the inspection of balikbayan boxes.

Such bill provides that the packages could be opened only under certain circumstances.

In his tax exemption and no-opening-of-packages proposal, the Mindanao solon invoked the Constitution, which provides: “The State affirms labor as a primary social economic force. It shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare.”

Rodriguez said this is a way for the state and the government to give back to OFWs, citing “their remittances contribute significantly to our nation’s economic growth.”

Last year, OFWs alone sent an estimated $30 billion to their families and relatives, he said.

If enacted into law, the balikbayan boxes could be opened only when the consignor’s export declaration and packing list are not attached to the boxes or when the BOC receives written information that the shipped items are banned, prohibited or regulated under existing laws.

The bill also expands the definition of a balikbayan’s family to include not only his spouse and children but also his parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters (whether full blood or half blood), and relatives within the fourth degree of relationship.