Bureau of Customs in hot water over tax on imported books

The Bureau of Customs has an addition to their never ending pile of complaints and grievances from clients. After their handling of balikbayan boxes was exposed, the BoC is in hot water once more as another complaint regarding taxes being imposed on imported books rose up.

A concerned netizen, Elizabeth Ramos, wanted to raise awareness on how important it is to be well aware of our rights and the existing policies.

She shared her experience on social media regarding her "Bureau of Corrupt" (jokingly stated by Ramos) which she later on corrected as Bureau of Customs encounter. She ordered a discounted set of Harry Potter books online and was shipped from abroad.

For everyone's awareness, all imported books are TAX FREE based on quantities. For institutions, they allowed Tax Exemption on imported 12 (twelve) pieces of books per title while 6 (six) pieces per title of books imported by an individual.

As stated in Department Order No. 57-2011 of the Department of Finance (DoF):

"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 as stated in Annex A of the Florence Agreement, are exempt from customs duties. Importation of books is likewise exempt from value-added tax (VAT) pursuant to Section 109 (R) of the National Internal Revenue Code."

Since Ramos imported 7 Harry Potter books, more than the 6 tax-exempted books allowed, that became the basis of the BoC to impose tax stating that all the Harry Potter Books are the same, she ended up not getting her package unless paying more than a thousand for the tax as calculated by the BoC. However, Ramos knew her right and fought for it.

Check her full story below:

Dahil sikat ang #BureauOfCorrupt este #BureauOfCustoms.

Here's my experience to the most corrupt government office of the Philippines.

I ordered Harry Potter Boxed Set (7books) from Bookdepository. I got the #EMS notice last December 2014. I got really excited when I received the notice card but also scared because I heard/read horror stories regarding the tax on books impose by the Pasay Post Office. Books are exempted to tax if its not more than 6 books PER title.

Me and BF went to EMS Pasay Office prepared to face them. I brought the copy of the Dept Order regarding the tax exemption of books. When I got there, we have to wait for my number to be called. We waited for 1 and a half hour. When I was called, I went to the inspection room. They open my package and compute for the tax. They asked me to wait again to be called to another room. There was an old man there selling snacks (near the CRs) he told me that "Kapag lumagpas ng 2k yung tax sayo lapit ka sakin." When I was called to another room, they showed me their computation. That's when I explained to them that books are exempted to tax according to the copy of the Dept Order 57-2011 and the Florence Agreement (with highlights and everything) that I brought. That its for personal use etc. However, they pointed out that it was more than 6 books. They even told me that the Harry Potter books are all the same! One lady even told us "Marunong pa kayo samin". Grabe lang inis ko nun.

We went home with nothing.

The next few weeks, I researched about the tax on books and who should I tell my concern. Salamat FB and IG friends! 😙

I tweeted @mlq3 first then he mentioned @pcdspo. PCDSPO asked me to email them. I asked both of the accounts if my Harry Potter Boxed Set (7books) should be taxed. And they answered me that books are not taxable and that my Harry Potter books are tax exempted.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning

They forwarded my email to these email adds

OCOM Public Assistance/Complaints Desk Team

Then I think the BoC forwarded my email to Pasay Post Office. I went back to the post office and went straight to their room. I talked to someone told my name. Yea! He knew me (because of the email)! I tried again to tell him that books are tax exempted but he told me that theres no need for my explanation. He asked someone to get my books and asked me to pay for 100php for the storage fee. He even asked me if "Sino ba kapit mo?" And I was like "Huh?!". Ang sarap sabihan na Lolo ko kasi si Fidel V. Ramos at Tito ko si Manuel Quezon 😂 (Joke lang..di kami related)

From then on, sinumpa ko na yang Customs at Post Office na yan. Pero parang gusto kong ulitin para mairecord mga palusot nila. 😈 Mag antay lang kayo, pag nagsale ulit ang Harry Potter boxed set baka sipagin ako 😋

P.S. The part with the erasure was the discounted "tax" for 700php the guy erased it when I said I don't want to pay for it."

Another netizen, Jesse Conrad Falsis, shared that he encountered a similar experience at the BoC. He said:

Eto still fresh just a few hours ago, this is tax for 2 Julia Quinn Novels ordered from Amazon.com, unfortunately is does not fall to the category "Textbooks and Dictionaries" sabi ng Customs Officer. BTW, the declared value of the item written by the person also contained the shipping and handling paid to Amazon. As the total value of the books (based on the sales invoice) is only Php712.86. So taxable din daw pati shipping and handling fees. Kung hindi lang sinabi ng NBS at Fully Booked na stop printing na Publisher nito at wala nang available na new sa Pilipinas, hindi kami papatol sa dito eh.

How about those who do not know about the policy? Will Boc protect their rights or simply ask them to pay for thousands before getting something they desire or before claiming the package of what their kapamilya work hard for?

I guess you already have an answer.