MANILA, Philippines - All books imported into the Philippines, whether for personal or commercial use, are tax-free, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).
Last December 12, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima signed Department Order No. 57-2011 emphasizing the duty- and VAT-free status of imported books, and detailing guidelines covering clearance procedures from customs.
"All imported books, whether for commercial or personal use with the exception of those published by or for a private commercial enterprise essentially for advertising purposes as stated in Annex A of the Florence Agreement, are exempt from customs duties. Importation of books is likewise exempt from value-added tax (VAT) pursuant to Section 109 (R) of the National Internal Revenue Code," the order stated.
The UNESCO Florence Agreement, which was signed by the Philippines, waived tariffs on books and other printed materials in order to facilitate the free flow of educational, scientific and cultural materials.
The DOF order requires commercial book importers to present an endorsement from the department's Revenue Office so it can be exempted from duties and VAT on books and other materials.
The endorsement will only be issued after book importers submit the following:
1. Bill of lading/ Airway bill /Postal registry notice with BOC Tentative Assessment Sheet;
2. Commercial invoice;
3. Packing list with title of books;
4. Authority of representative (in lieu of consignee);
5. Affidavit to the effect that the shipment consists of books;
6. In case of donated books – Deed of Donation duly authenticated by the Philippine Consulate abroad, and Deed of Acceptance;
7. Certification from the UNESCO Office in the Philippines attesting that the importation/s is/are covered by the Florence Agreement; and
8. Certificate of Registration with the National Book Development Board as book importer or publisher.
Individuals, who import books for personal use whether as accompanied baggage or through couriers or post office, do not need to secure an endorsement from the DOF Revenue Office. However, these importations should be cleared and released through the required declaration of goods under existing regulations.
The DOF order clarified that books considered for personal use means quantities that do not exceed 12 copies of any 1 work when imported by an institution or 6 copies of any 1 work when imported by an individual.
In 2009, the Department of Finance, under Secretary Margarito Teves, came under fire for an order imposing duties on book importation.
The Bureau of Customs started imposing a 1% import duty on educational books and 5% duty for non-educational books. The BOC based its decision on Republic Act No. 8047 or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act, which allows "tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing."
It was a shipment of Stephenie Meyer's best-selling "Twilight" novels that reportedly started what was soon dubbed the "book blockade of 2009."
However, the DOF order was revoked after widespread criticism.