Category Archives: Moving Checklist

I was charged 100% customs taxes for a US$80 shipment

So, you’ve finally decided on moving to the Philippines.  You have your documentation, and a game plan on what you’ll have as a source of income.  You then sort through your personal belongings . . . which ones to bring with your and which ones to sell, donate, give to friends or family, or toss in the trash. After figuring out which ones to keep, you’re then faced with this dilemma: how do I send all this stuff to the Philippines?

There are several options on bringing your stuff here, from sending your stuff piecemeal to getting a cargo container to fit all of your stuff in a single shipment.  But no matter which method you’re going to send your stuff, it is very important to ask first the shipping company whether you would be charged tariffs and customs taxes.  You might think that just because these are used and for personal use, customs would not charge you anything.  Think again.

If your shipper says that you’ll just be charged a certain amount, don’t rely on it. Graft and corruption is so prevalent in the Philippines, and one of the most notorious, if not the most, is the Bureau of Customs and Immigration.  Chances are when your stuff arrives at the port or at the shipper’s branch for picking up, someone at customs will overvalue your item, and charge you an unreasonably large amount in taxes for your stuff.  Which is why I highly recommend sending through Filipino door-to-door balikbayan box shippers.

We sent ours one 20″ x 20″ x 20″ box at a time through Filipino door-to-door balikbayan box shippers.  For some reason, stuff sent through this method is not charged tariffs.  I think it’s simply because it’s “door to door”.  But why I made the assumption that it is highly likely you might be charged way too much if you use a regular courier such as FedEx, UPS, or USPS is from this experience:

Once in a while, my mother in law would send us gifts via USPS.  And each time I pick it up from the local post office, I’d have to clear that with customs. The gifts, consisting of toys, children’s books, and clothes were declared as being less than US$100 (which they were), including the shipping, but the customs official there wanted to charge me PhP3,400.  That’s around $80!  That’s almost the same amount as price of the items or a 100% tax.  Jeez, it’s not like I’m importing a Jaguar! 

But that’s not the end of the story.  A female worker at the post office said to ask the customs person for a discount. I asked if PhP500 would be enough to cover the tax.  He said that it’s enough as long as I don’t ask for a receipt.  I strongly believe they’re in cahoots.  That’s their racket. The woman there did volunteer this piece of information: next time have your mother-in-law send her gifts through door-to-door balikbayan boxes.

So, if you’re planning to keep an item because you think it’s going to be more expensive to buy that item new here than the shipping cost, consider first having them sent door-to-door.  Otherwise, you might find yourself just wishing you should have just sold them or left them to a friend.