Senator Sonny Angara has urged anew the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to fast-track the issuance of proper guidelines for the implementation of tax-free balikbayan boxes that would truly benefit overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Magpa-Pasko na naman pero wala pa ring kasiguraduhan kung mapapakinabangan na ng ating mga kababayang abroad ang pribilehiyong ito. 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,” said Angara, sponsor of Republic Act 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) that was signed into law in May last year.
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.
Under Customs Administrative Order 05-2016 and Customs Memorandum Order 04-2017 that the bureau issued in August, qualified Filipinos while abroad must 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.
“Isang magandang hakbang para sa bagong pamunuan ng Customs na maitama sa lalong madaling panahon ang alituntunin sa balikbayan box para manumbalik ang kumpiyansa ng taumbayan sa Customs,” the veteran legislator said.
The Customs order also stated that “all balikbayan boxes per sender in any calendar year shall not exceed P150,000.”
The seasoned lawmaker pointed out that such rule is 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. 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 youthful senator 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.