The new policy regarding the strict rules of sending the Balikbayan boxes to the Philippines affects a lot of Filipinos abroad.

Latest Update:  This new Balikbayan box policy is currently suspended until 31st March 2018, while BOC is changing the policy.  Check the full memo of the Balikbayan box  new policy suspension here.

Since 1st August 2017, the new policy that has been implemented by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has caused lots of buzz in the media and within the Filipino communities abroad.  I also received few queries about it from fellow Filipinos here in the UK and other parts of the world.

Sending Balikbayan boxes to our families in the Philippines has been a part of the Filipino modern tradition.  Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and the Resident Filipinos abroad are working hard and saving up to fill up these precious balikbayan boxes.

What are the “Balikbayan boxes”?

For those who are not familiar with this term, these are the boxes that Filipinos are sending to their families in the Philippines filled with toys, clothing, appliances, groceries etc. The Balikbayan boxes come in various sizes depending on your preference and budget.

Filipinos who work and live abroad, typically fill the Balikbayan boxes throughout the year and send it to their family few months before the Christmas season or on several occasions in a year.

What are these new policies about sending Balikbayan boxes:

The new policy primarily aims to tackle the illegal importation (smuggling) of imported goods in the Philippines. The tax will also be a new source of revenue for the government public funds.

From 1st August 2017, balikbayan boxes will now be subject to duty and import tax with certain exemptions and limitations.

What do I have to do?

You can still carry-on and send your balikbayan boxes as usual. However, there are few things that you should make note of.

Based on the new policy, valuable new items (e.g. gadgets, jewellery, appliances, watches etc.) that are sent thru the Balikbayan box should need to be declared and supported with a receipt.

The used items, groceries and less valuable new items (e.g everyday clothing, toiletries, chocolates etc.) is not required to have a receipt when sent thru the balikbayan box but you have to list them on the declaration form.

Upon sending the Balikbayan box, the sender is required to fill up the declaration form that is provided by the Bureau of Customs. This will be submitted together with the receipt/s to the Cargo companies that will transport the Balikbayan boxes to the Philippines.

The declaration list and the receipts will be the basis of the duty and import tax that you have to pay when the items arrive in the Philippines.

Balikbayan Information Sheet from Bureau of Customs (Declaration Sheet)

What are the exemptions and limitations?

Everyone is still allowed to send a balikbayan box to the Philippines.

However, the balikbayan box that won’t qualify for the exemptions and limitations will be subject to duty and import tax.

The Bureau of Customs set some special arrangements for the Qualified Filipinos While Abroad.

The Qualified Filipinos While Abroad (QFWA) are the OFWs, Non-resident Filipinos abroad who established a Permanent residency overseas but retained their Filipino Citizenship (Dual Citizen), and the Filipino Citizen who acquired a temporary visa to stay abroad (e.g. students, business visa etc.)

The QFWA are entitled to get a possible duty and tax exemption once all the necessary requirements are met. Failure to comply with the necessary documentations, the QFWA will have to pay the duty and importation tax

Requirements:

  • A copy of the Philippine passport
  • If dual citizen without a Philippine passport, a copy of their Oath of Allegiance provided by the embassy during their Re-acquisition of the Philippine citizenship.
  • The Information sheet (declaration list) from the BOC (link provided above)
  • Receipt of the valuable items, if required.

The QFWA is limited to send 3 balikbayan boxes with the total worth value of PHP 150,000 per calendar year to qualify for the for the duty and tax exemption. The items should not be in commercial quantity and considered to be an allowed and/or regulated items.

If the balikbayan box would worth below PHP 10,000 it won’t be classified as part of the duty and tax-free exemption scheme, but will be classified as De Minimis Importation so it is automatically exempted to the duty and importation tax.

If you go over the allowed limits and conditions, the balikbayan box will be subjected to duty and import tax.

Only the family and close relatives of the QFWA should be the receiver of the balikbayan box in the Philippines. If the QFWA will be sending the balikbayan box to their friends or non-relatives, this will also be subjected to the duty and import tax (if over the allowance of De Minimis Importation value of Php 10, 000).

For Non / Previous Filipino Citizens (PH citizens who acquired new citizenship from other country and choose not to retain their PH citizenships), will also have to pay for the duty and import tax (if over the De Minimis Importation value of 10,000 PHP), same goes with other foreign nationals who wish to send balikbayan boxes in the Philippines.

If you want to know in advance on how much is the potential duty and importation tax of your balikbayan box, you can message the Bureau of Customs FB page or email boc.cares@customs.gov.ph . Don’t forget to include the itemized list of the goods that you will be sending so they can provide you with a correct computation.

If you have decided to apply to re-claim your Filipino citizenship after acquiring new citizenship from another country, I made a blog post about it, please read it on the link below.

Balikbayan Box FAQ from Bureau of Customs

How would I know my limit or differentiate the personal and commercial quantity of goods in my Balikbayan box?  

We do sometimes get carried away on how much stuff we can put in our Balikbayan box for our family and relatives.  Here are the guidelines from the BOC

list of goods limitations from BOC

If you have other concerns, about the new Balikbayan box policy please contact Bureau of Customs on their  Facebook page or email boc.cares@customs.gov.ph

I hope that this clarifies the process on how you can send your Balikbayan boxes to the Philippines under the new policy of the Bureau of Customs.

Featured Photo Credit: By drcw from NYC – philppine air, CC BY 2.0,

Let me know in the comment box below on what you think of this new policy and your experience in sending your Balikbayan boxes.