How to Avoid Extra Fees When Importing Books to the Philippines

A few weeks ago pointyman2000 posted on his receiving a replacement copy of AEG’s 4th edition of Legend of the Five Rings but upon going to the post office to pick it up the assessor attempted to levy a tax on the parcel, which if it had pushed through would’ve run somewhere along the lines of 250-500 pesos (roughly 10 USD) whereas I had to fork out around twice that much when I got my parcels from Black Library the first time this new racket came into effect. Whether this was done so at the behest of customs or merely by an assessor looking for pocket money is irrelevant, fact of the matter is in the Philippines books are one of the few items that are tax exempt even though assessor will gleefully remain silent on that fact and simply levy a duty anyway.

In any case as a public service I’d just like to bring the following laws to everyone’s attention;

The Florence Agreement of 1950; this treaty obligates all signatory nations to refrain from imposing customs duties on the importation of books, periodicals and materials used for the production of books. So in effect no matter the quantity you cannot be assed import duties by Customs though they still can assess  other fees that are applied to any other product that is entering the Philippines.

Republic Act 8047; this local law provides books and other such analogous materials with several benefits but the pertinent provisions for our segment is in  Section 12 which states “Books, magazines, periodicals, newspapers, including book publishing and printing, as well as its distribution and circulation, shall be  exempt from the coverage of the expanded value added tax law.” This means that books are exempt on the 12% VAT.

How to apply the aforementioned laws: Now just because these laws exist doesn’t mean the local bureaucrat in the post office will apply them automatically,  let alone even know about it. Procedurally the Supreme Court is clear that the onus falls on us to make the claim for a tax exemption and show we qualify to  avail of it. Every time you have a parcel you will be given an assessment which states a breakdown of the taxes being charged to you for importing the books, various taxes and the postal service charges. On this form will also be procedures for claiming tax exemptions, at which point you should first call their  attention to the two laws then fill out the form or submit a memo, which I usually prepare in advance before I head over to the post office, citing the  aforementioned laws.

If the assessor is particularly nice they might just hand wave you upon pointing out the two laws, if they’re particularly hidebound you’ll have to spend a couple of minutes filling up forms but either way just remain polite and courteous. If the assessor is particularly stubborn or greedy it would be best to back off and consult an attorney to draft a more formal letter if you’re dead set on not paying. Petty bureaucrats are terrified of anything penned by a lawyer. You have 30 days before the parcel is considered abandoned so there’s no rush.

On a final note I am not yet sure if these exemptions apply to audio books in CD form and other literary materials not made from slaughtered trees since they can qualify as both Optical Media and Educational Materials, a distinction which has not yet been settled by the courts or the Department of Finance.

So more or less that’s it; a quick work around to make books more accessible to the Filipino gamer. Though I’d like to make the disclaimer that I’m just a law student at this point and any real conflicts that arise on this subject should be taken up with an actual practicing tax lawyer.

Your friendly neighborhood rules lawyer,


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