Balikbayan boxes (literally “repatriate boxes”) containing their “pasalubongs or padala” are normally sent, through freight forwarders either by sea or air, to their families and relatives in the Philippines to make the season even merrier. They contain goods the sender thinks the recipient would like, regardless of whether these goods can be bought inexpensively in the Philippines.
Rules on balikbayan boxes
The Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) and the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN ) law exempt the importation of balikbayan boxes containing personal and household effects from the payment of customs duty and taxes. The threshold value of such importation should, however, not exceed a total Free Carrier (FCA) value of P150,000 in any calendar year. Any amount in excess shall be subject to the applicable duties and taxes.
Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 18-2018 (issued last October 2018) implements Customs Administrative Order (CAO) No. 1-2018 (issued last August 2018) and provides the guidelines relating to the consolidated shipment of balikbayan boxes.
Under CAO 01-2018, only qualified Filipinos while abroad (qualified Filipinos or sender) are allowed to send to their families or relatives (i.e., relatives up to the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity) in the Philippines balikbayan boxes containing personal and household effects.
Qualified Filipinos include non-resident Filipinos (i.e., those who have established permanent residency abroad but have retained Filipino citizenship), Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and resident Filipinos (i.e., Filipinos who temporarily stay abroad holding student, investor, tourist and similar visas).
For purposes of duty and tax exemption, the balikbayan box should contain only “personal and household effects” that shall neither be in commercial quantities nor intended for barter, sale or for hire. The term “commercial quantity” has been the subject of diverse interpretations but would generally refer to the quantity for a given kind or class of articles which are in excess of what is compatible with and commensurate to the person’s normal requirements for personal use.
For a single sender with multiple ultimate consignees, commercial quantity of a given class shall be determined based on the total quantity sent by the sender to all consignees.
“Personal effects” include new or used articles for personal use or consumption, such as wearing apparels, personal adornments, electronic gadgets, toys, toiletries or similar items. It does not include motor vehicles. (M.A.Tamayo, MT)