Customs: Imported books are unconditionally duty-free, tax free

Whether you bought them or getting them as gifts, imported books are exempted from Customs duties and taxes — period.

Who said so? First, the global Florence Agreement signed by the Philippines in 1956. Second, the Department of Finance in an order issued in 2011.

There’s a third: The Bureau of Customs. Yes, the BOC itself.

In its Customs Memorandum Circular 142-2014 dated Dec. 3, 2014 and addressed to all district collectors and sub-port collectors, all informal entry divisions, and all customs personnel, the BOC made it simple and crystal-clear:

… as long as the books being imported are not primarily for advertising purposes, the following imports are unconditionally duty- and tax-free, without any need for any endorsement from any third party:

a. for individual importers or recipients of packages: any number of books, as long as there are no more than six copies of any one book

b.  for institutional importers or recipients of packages: any number of books, as long as there are no more than twelve copies of any one book

The CMC also said that imports of more than six copies (for individuals) or more than 12 copies (for insitutions) of any one book are also duty- and tax-free, provided that that importer presents an endorsement from the DOF Revenue Office.

The BOC’s CMC is obviously clearer compared to the DOF’s long-and-winding Order and despite its clarification.

Suggestion to the government: The BOC should order all Customs personnel everywhere to immediately read, implement, obey and post a copy of this CMC at all premises and desks of BOC, seaports, airports, post offices, and offices of cargo and courier companies. The BOC together with the DOF could also come out with a poster, stating the summary of CMC’s simple, crytal-clear rules.

Below are copies of the BOC CMC and the DOF Order, for everyone’s reference: