Customs Duties on Books – My Experience


When I visited the site  and post of Manuel Quezon III on the customs duties on books, I read paragraphs on taxes on books ordered online and shipped to the Philippines. Following is my experience last November. This is basically a repost done after I realized that unkown to me I shouldn’t have been taxed for my book purchases. The post:

Last week, the registry notice of my order from Amazon arrived. Per Amazon, estimated date of arrival should have been 7 November. It came a few days late, I think on the 12th. Not bad.

Unlike in the past when the registry notice had the info that I should pay P35 upon claiming, this time it said “Pay P____. Being the proverbial optimist, I thought, uhmmm, maybe I won’t have to pay anything.

Then lo and behold, when my son was at the post office this pm, he called, “Mama, may babayaran. P1400.” Deja vu. I think I wrote a post some time ago about how a scholar of Mama who’s now a nurse in the States and doing very well sent a package of various items I didn’t ask for and was alarmed, just as I was, that the Philippine post office charged me over a thousand pesos for claiming the same. She had paid duties on it from her end. Now this, for 3 books. Not because I’m bragging but strictly for info’s sake, here are some details:

Book A – $32.97

Book B – $16.47

Book C – $10.20

_________________

Subtotal: $59.64

S & H    : $31.96

Order

Total    : $91.60

Fine, such was what I paid Amazon using my credit card.

Now to the post office’s charges:

Customs Duty                    Tariff Heading: $49.01

$91.60 (Dutiable value) x 49.35 (exchange rate)

Php 4,520 (dutiable value in peso) x 5% (Rate of duty)

Php226 (Total Customs Duty)

Expanded Value Added Tax

Php 4520 (dutiable value in peso)

Php226 (Customs Duty)

Php250 (Import Processing Fee)

Php250 (Customs Documentary Stamp)

Php15 (BIR Documentary Stamp)

Total Taxable Cost Php5261 x 12% (Evat rate)

Total Payable VAT Php631

Summary:

Customs Duty      Php226

EVat                     Php631

Import ProcessingPhp 250

Customs Stamp   Php250

BIR Doc Stamps   Php15

TOTAL:               Php1372

Any comments? Luckily my son had enough money but was left with zilch after. The man behind him couldn’t get his package because he was asked to pay P1700 and he didn’t have enough. How inconvenient.

Is it not possible for the Post Office to indicate duties in the registry notice to prevent surprises, unhappy and big surprises? Maybe shocks would be a more apt word.

Moral of the story: When you go to claim a parcel at the post office, do bring lots of cash. The computation I presented above should give you an idea how much. Note that rate of duty for books is 5%. For DVDs it’s 10%, I was told. Be warned.

Have been trying to get into the website of e-2door so I can compare which would have been cheaper: getting the books direct from Amazon or through e-2door. Unfortunately, its system must be down. Promise I’ll get round to that as soon as their site works.

PS: Lest you think any money went to the PO personnel, I don’t think so. He gave an OR plus a flyer entitled “THe Bureau of Customs Postal Service”, a primer on the most frequently asked questions and answers from the Tariff and Customs Code and National Internal Revenue Code.

The Bureau of Customs website is www.customs.gov.ph

Note: I paid my credit card an equivalent of P4467.24 for the $91.60 transaction with Amazon. So this plus P1372 gives P5839.24

&&&&&&&&&&

Finally, e-2door worked. Here’s a summary of the payments I would have made had I gone e-2door instead of direct from amazon:
Item    Unit Price    Shipping and Handling    Tax and Duty    Total Price    Peso Equivalent
Book A    $16.47    $12.64                           $6.75                 $35.86    Php1803.64
Book B    $32.97    $15.28                           $11.19               $59.44    Php2989.74
Book C    $10.20    $11.63                           $5.07                $26.90    Php1352.92
TOTAL                                                                                  $122.20    Php6146.29
So while I spent P1372 + P4467.24 = Php5839.24, the transaction would have set me off by Php6146.29 via e-2door, for a difference of Php307.05.

If government had charged me P35 like it did a few months ago for a book that cost less than $50, amazon direct would be the way to go. But for beyond $50 purchases, it would be worth considering e-2door given the convenience of having the parcel brought to your doorstep and no shocking duties to pay. At least from the very start, you would know how much you’d need to shell out.

If you are interested in e-2door, go to this site For most packages they can deliver within 2 weeks, but once I experienced a delay. Back in May 2008, I ordered a book from Amazon that cost $19.50. Shipping and handling cost $9.98 for a total of $29.48. For that purchase I only paid P35 in the post office. Oh well, lesson learned.

But imagine if government abided by the Florence agreement, then how much would I have saved going either way? Sigh.

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23 thoughts on “Customs Duties on Books – My Experience

  1. I’m glad things worked out for the best! Hooray.

    Yes, I am on twitter. Are you? My twitter name is derdododododo. I mostly react and hardly twit. Are you on twitter?

    • Dear Derdo,

      Sorry for my late reply, I only saw your message two days ago.

      Thank you very much again for your care and attention. I was not aware of that development. DoF Order No. 57-2011 finally establishes the clear and bona fide process I was hoping for!

      My books have being released by the Postmaster upon me paying the regular 40 Pesos and specifically agreeing (see notarized affidavit) to pay any taxes lawfully claimed by Customs upon reviewing the situation. We are still waiting to receive an official answer/clearance from Customs.

      BTW, feel free to simply call me Vincent.

      • Hello Vincent. Great to know the postmaster agreed to such an arrangement in the meantime! With this clarification from DoF I hope it means you will not have to pay extra.

        Thank you for sharing your experience !

        • Hello Derdo,

          I think my case is closed: Mr. R. Biazon, BoC Commissioner, just confirmed via Twitter that BoC clearance is not required when books have already been released. So I only paid the regular 40 Pesos instead of the 4000+ claimed by BoC for the import of 12 cultural/educational books for my personal development.

          I would like to hereby acknowledge the professionalism of the Postmaster and the people at our local post office in general. Mr. R. Biazon might have also helped; I regret though the lack of official feedback from the Bureau of Customs – nobody ever replied to/acknowledged my emails to commissionerboc2011@yahoo.com, nor my registered mail. I would like to think that this is simply due to a lack of time/resources.

          Thank you again also for your active support.

          At the end, very happy if my experience could benefit others. I am learning that there is much good will and intentions around here in the Philippines. Beautiful!

          Are you on Twitter?

  2. Hello Derdo,

    FYI and the information of those reading your blog, I am in touch with the office of the BOC Commissioner and I am trying to support/keep track of the process via Twitter: @Catanduaneslife #FlorenceAgreement #EO885 #Books. Feel free to join that discussion/thread on Twitter.

    I will update that process here: http://storify.com/Vincent/florence-agreement-eo885-taxes-on-imported-books

    View the story “Florence Agreement & Executive order 885: No taxes on imported cultural/educational books” on Storify]

  3. Hi, good morning,

    I have ordered some books via Amazon, duty free. These books (about 15) are educational/cultural and strictly for personal use (I have no intention to sell them).

    The Filipino Custom is now asking for a large fee.

    This looks like being an error has I understand from http://www.philstar.com/article.aspx?articleid=471074&publicationsubcategoryid=6 that I should not pay anything.

    Would you know what is the latest news about the import duty of books for personal use?

    Thanks in advance for your comments/help!

    • Hello. Has someone gotten in touch with you yet regarding your concern? I forwarded it to a person whom I thought might be able to address the matter … If you have the time, please share with whatever developments have taken place.

      Thank you.

      • Hello Derdo,

        Many thanks for the attention/care you are bringing to my post/situation.

        No, I have not yet received any feedback.

        FYI:

        When I went to the post office, I took with me a copy of the above mentioned news article. The postmaster made a photocopy and very kindly offered to inquire at the Custom.

        I have declined to pay the taxes (around 4200 Pesos) and my package is still at the post office.

        I have send yesterday around noon an urgent e-mail to UNESCO Philippines (unescoph@mozcom.com), explaining the situation and asking for their advices.

        I have also posted the issue on another 2 forums.

        I will keep you informed of any development. I think it is important to get collectively knowledgeable about whether such taxes are legitimate or not, in particular with respect to the UNESCO Florence agreement.

        • Thank you for the sharing the measures you have taken so far. Followed up again with my friend. Hopefully, she or her office will get back to you soon.

        • Hello. Got word from my friend who’s with Philpost. Sadly, there’s nothing she can do because this matter is Customs-related. Hope Customs will address your problem soon. I wonder if communicating directly with the new head of the Bureau of Customs will help your case. His name is Ruffy Biazon and per the website of the Bureau of Customs, the head’s email address is BOCCommissioner@customs.gov.ph

          Give it a try. You just might get results. Good luck.

    • I guess the ball is in the hands of the judiciary now. I hope there are book lovers from among them who will rule that books should be exempt from customs duties.

  4. Customs has been giving my fellow gamers (and technically me) the shaft as well. Our local forums is full of discussions about importing games and getting highly taxed for them. Shipping is free from Play-Asia so it’s even more disturbing. Technically the prices would be very competitive in our market if only customs wouldn’t nearly double the price you pay for bringing them in.

    The way its affected me personally is that I just make sure I buy my stuff locally or have it brought in through luggage. Curiously luggage appears to still be “customs free” (for any sort of item) in this country.

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