Angara asks BOC anew to expedite issuance of guidelines on ‘balikbayan’ boxes
The holiday rush nears but the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has yet to release its guidelines on the tax-free balikbayan boxes of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Senator Sonny Angara said on Tuesday.
“Magpa-Pasko na naman pero wala pa ring kasiguraduhan kung mapapakinabangan na ng ating mga kababayang abroad ang pribilehiyong ito (Christmas is coming and we are not yet sure if our countrymen abroad can avail of these privileges),” Angara said in a statement as he urged anew the BOC to fast-track the issuance of guidelines.
“Noong nakaraang taon pa ho tayo nananawagan na ipatupad na nang klaro at tama ang batas sa paraang hindi magiging pahirap lalo na sa mga OFW (Since last year, we are calling the implementation of a clear and fair guidelines so that we are not making it hard for our OFWs),” said the senator, chair of the Senate ways and means committee and sponsor of Republic Act 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) that was signed into law in May last year.
Angara noted that the BOC has recently suspended two Customs orders providing the guidelines on tax-free balikbayan boxes after receiving numerous complaints regarding the tedious requirements to avail of the tax incentive.
Citing Customs Administrative Order 05-2016 and Customs Memorandum Order 04-2017 that the BOC issued in August, Angara said qualified Filipinos while abroad should accomplish an information sheet that includes an itemized list of the contents of the balikbayan box, and must submit a copy of the receipts for brand new items and a photocopy of their passport.
The orders also stated that “all balikbayan boxes per sender in any calendar year shall not exceed P150,000.”
Angara pointed out that such rules are “contrary to the true intention of the law which provides that OFWs can send up to three P150,000-worth of tax- and duty-free balikbayan boxes, or not exceeding P450,000 in a year, given that the goods are not in commercial quantities.”
“Itinuturing nating bagong bayani ang ating mga OFW kaya nga natin itinulak ang batas na ito bilang dagdag pribilehiyo para sa kanila (We consider our OFWs heroes of the new generation that is why we are pushing for the law that will give them additional privileges). The laws that Congress makes should always be interpreted in favor of the people—and in this instance, it should be in favor of our OFWs and their families,” the lawmaker said.
He further stressed that exempting balikbayan boxes from taxes means “doing justice to OFWs who remit billions of pesos every year.”
The CMTA also provides for a less intrusive examination of goods brought in to the country so as to prevent the alleged tampering of balikbayan boxes from happening again, he added. /jpv
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