Press Release
January 20, 2016

'BBL' also hikes tax exemption of personal, household items OFWs home for good can bring

Not just a balikbayan box, but can also be a balikbayan van.

Overseas Filipinos returning to the Philippines for good are also entitled to ship home tax-free up to P350,000 worth of personal and household effects, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, author of the Balikbayan Box Law (BBL) provision in the Senate- approved proposed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) explained today.

This, he said, is on top of the privilege to be granted to Filipinos still working abroad to bring in or send home without tax a balikbayan box whose contents do not exceed P150,000.

Recto said the proposed CMTA also raised the tax-exempt value of the personal property an OFW who is returning to the country permanently will bring with him.

"Kung nagtrabaho ka sa abroad at gusto mo i-uwi ang mga naipon mong mga kasangkapan, appliances o ano mang bagay na may sentimental value at ikarga mo ang mga ito sa isang 20 footer van, pwedeng ipasok na tax free basta hindi lalampas ng P350,000 ang halaga, " Recto said.

Among items covered are "used household appliances, jewelry, precious stones, and other goods of luxury, personal and household effects including wearing apparel, goods of personal adornment except luxury items, toilet goods, instruments related to one's profession and analogous personal or household effects, excluding vehicles, watercrafts, aircrafts and animals."

"Pwede pa nga taasan ito ng Bicam," Recto said, adding, "'Pag used na, siyempre ang assessment ng mga yan ay mababa na."

However, the P350,000 tax-free ceiling can only be availed of by those who have lived abroad for 10 years, Recto explained.

Those who have lived overseas for at least five years but not more 10 years will be entitled to a lower shipment value of P250,000, he said.

Recto said this "repatriation of goods" privilege granted to "permanently returning residents" has been in effect since the Martial Law years, "so the CMTA merely adjusted it up."

Under current regulations, an OFW home for good can only bring in P10,000 worth of personal and household goods.

"This is one of the many outdated regulations CMTA is trying to cure," Recto said.

On Monday, the Senate approved on final reading the customs reform measure. A House-Senate conference committee is now finalizing the version which will be sent back to each chamber for ratification.

One of the highlights, and the one awaited by millions of OFWs, is the tax treatment of balikbayan boxes they send home to their families.

Such interest was fueled by their outcry over a Bureau of Customs plan last year to open balikbayan boxes and to tax those containing goods valued more than P10,000.

Following the uproar, Recto filed the proposed Balikbayan Box Law (BBL). The said bill was later incorporated as Section 800 of the CMTA by Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate Ways and Means committee.

Recto said Section 800 of the proposed CMTA defines "conditionally-free and duty-exempt importation."

"'Yan ang Super Section 800 na nagbibigay pribilehiyo sa mga OFWs na mag-uwi o magpadala sa Pilipinas ng mga bagay na kanilang pinaghirapan na hindi bubuwisan," he said.

"Kapag pirmado na ang CMTA, bawat balikbayan box ay protektado ng Super Section 800," Recto said.

Under this section, "residents of the Philippines, Overseas Filipino Workers, other Filipinos while residing abroad or in their return to the Philippines shall be allowed to bring in or send to their families or relatives in the Philippines balikbayan boxes which shall be exempt from duties and taxes."

The "total dutiable value" of the boxes shall not exceed P150,000.

The privilege can only be enjoyed "up to three times in a calendar year," Recto said, quoting the proposed law.

"This means that an OFW can send two boxes at the same time provided that their total worth is not more than P150,000. That will be counted as one shipment," Recto said.

The boxes, however, must contain "personal and household effects only and shall neither be in commercial quantities, nor intended for barter, sale or for hire," the said section further reads.

"This is to prevent senders from abusing this privilege. With this privilege comes the duty to observe the law. And it also comes with penalties so that smugglers won't take advantage of it," Recto explained.

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