I've been eyeing the Penguin Little Black Classics boxed set and 4 other classic books in boxed sets on Book Depository since they're on sale. TBD offers free shipping, but of course there's the customs tax that I have to worry about. I'm willing to pay for the tax and whatever fees I needed to pay, but still those customs officer can't be trusted since there are lots of complaints against their corrupt system: opened and damaged packages, missing items from the package, ridiculous high customs tax, etc. I've read and heard first-hand experiences of those who ordered online from shops abroad who ended up paying customs tax almost the same price or even twice the price of the item they ordered. So you see, you can't blame me for mistrusting them.
I heard from a friend about the LBC Shipping Cart courier that acts as third-party couriers for items from the US to PH, so I contacted them regarding the possible additional customs fees I have to pay. They told me they can't ship the box set since it contains more than 6 books and it will be treated as “commercial quantity” by the customs. Because I really wanted to buy the box set, I decided to just choose the Amazon global expedited shipping method which includes import duties deposit, but first I had to do my own online review searching about the shipping method. I read that I may still have to pay additional customs tax depending with the item I ordered. Oh well, of course it depends also if the customs officers who are going to check my package are corrupt or decent government officials. I even tried the online customs tax calculator, but then I remember one of my co-trainees who was asked to pay 8k for the customs tax for an item that's worth only 4k even though she presented her own calculation based on customs.gov.ph/tax-calculator/.
After a lot of research, here's what I learned about importing books and the taxes here in Philippines. I hope this would be of help for Filipino bookworms who loves buying books online.
Imported books whether for commercial or personal use are tax-free if....
Department Order No. 57-2011 states that all imported books, whether for commercial or personal use with the exception of those published by or for a private commercial enterprise essentially for advertising purposes are exempt from customs duties. The Order also states that importation of books is likewise exempt from value-added tax (VAT) pursuant to Section 109 (R) of the National Internal Revenue Code.The DOF clarified that books considered for personal use means quantities that do not exceed 12 copies of any one work when imported by an institution or 6 copies of any one work when imported by an individual. (source: cfo.gov.ph)
What about mangas and book series?
For example, the Harry Potter boxed set. Are they of the same title? Nope, they are part of a book series. So they are are tax-exempted.
What about more than 6 books with the same title?
Last year, my friend who's a Janeite, bought 8 copies of Pride & Prejudice in different editions through eBay bidding. In the end, she had no choice but to pay 2k for the customs tax. The books were not for commercial purpose, but since they were more than 6 books of the same title, they were treated as “commercial quantity”. We just recently found out about the process for duty-free importation of books. If we've only found out it before she ordered the books, then she would've only had to pay more than php500 for the release of her books.
Bookworms are always on the lookout for affordable books with free or cheap shipping fee, but to be honest, for me it's the high customs tax that I'm always worried about. So here's the procedure for duty-free importation of books for private, non-commercial use. It's not hassle-free, but for me I'd rather under go this process than pay a ridiculous high tax for my books and besides, I know my rights, I know the policy, so you should too.
DOF/BOC PROCEDURE IN PROCESSING DUTY-FREE IMPORTATION OF BOOKS THROUGH THE POST OFFICE
The following step-by-step process with the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is reproduced to guide individuals in their application for duty-free importation of books through the mail for private, non-commercial use. Note that individuals are still referred to as “importer” by the DOF and the BOC:
VALUE OF IMPORTATION FILING FEE
Php100,000.00 and below 200.00
Php 100,000.00 to Php 140,000.00 400.00
Php 140,000.00 to Php 700,000.00 600.00
Php 700,000.00 to Php 1,000,000.00 800.00
Over Php 1,000,000.00 1,000.00
Import Processing Fee, Customs Documentary Stamp, BIR Stamp
= Php 515.00
Post Office Parcel Fee
= Php 35.00
TOTAL Php 545.00
If ever you get a ridiculous computation for customs tax in order to claim the books you ordered for your personal use, don't! without knowing first your rights and the policy in importing books. If you have money to pay any amount for the customs tax, then it would be really hassle-free for you to just pay that amount and get your books, rather than filing first for duty-free importation documents. But that only makes those corrupt BoC officials more "walang hiya" and certified "buwaya".