BoC suspends guidelines on ‘balikbayan’ privileges

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BUREAU of Customs (BoC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña has ordered the temporary suspension of the implementing guidelines on the availment of duty- and tax-free privileges on balikbayan (returnee) boxes containing personal effects and household goods sent by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to their families in the Philippines.

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Lapeña on Friday said he was compelled to stop the implementation after receiving complaints from Filipino migrant workers on the tedious requirements before one can avail of such privileges on balikbayan boxes.

Ordered suspended by the BoC chief were Customs Administrative Order (CAO) 05-2016, Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) 04-2017 and the registration requirements of deconsolidators.

CAO 05-2016 and CMO 04-2017 provide guidelines on the implementation of duty- and tax-free privileges on balikbayan boxes.

Under these two orders, qualified Filipinos while abroad (QFWA) must accomplish the Information Sheet, submit a photocopy of their Philippine passport, a copy of invoice and proof of purchase of the goods contained in the box to be qualified for the P150,000 tax exemption.

Lapeña pointed out that a balikbayan box symbolizes the hardship of OFWs, and their love for the families they left behind in the Philippines.

“Although it is our duty to facilitate Customs clearance of balikbayan boxes, we cannot set aside the sentiments of our fellow Filipinos abroad,” he said.

According to Lapeña , a consultation would soon be conducted with stakeholders aimed at drafting necessary amendments to CAO 05-2016 and CMO 04-2017.

The suspension of the two orders would remain in effect until March 31, 2018.

“With the suspension of the current procedure on balikbayan boxes, the previous regulation will be enforced,” Lapeña said.

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