PH Customs clarifies guidelines on sending duty, tax-free balikbayan boxes

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Wednesday clarified its guidelines in sending balikbayan boxes and the persons qualified to benefit from the privilege.

In a statement, the BOC said that overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and other Filipinos, while residing abroad or upon their return to the Philippines, are allowed to bring or send duty- and tax-free goods to their families and relatives, under the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

The bureau said that qualified Filipinos while abroad (QFWA) refers to OFWs with valid passports issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and certified by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) or the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for overseas employment purposes.

The QFWA are Filipinos who work in a foreign country under employment contracts, regardless of their professions, skills or employment status.

It also includes Filipinos working abroad under job contracts that do not require certification from DOLE or POEA.

Resident Filipinos, on the other hand, refer to resident Filipino citizens who temporarily stay abroad, including holders of a student visa, investor’s visa, tourist visa and similar visas which allow them to establish temporary stay abroad.

The BOC said that balikbayan boxes may be sent up to three times in a calendar year, provided that the total value shall not exceed P150,000.00.

“Any amount that exceeds the allowable value is subject to payment of duties and taxes,” the bureau added.

To qualify for the duty and tax-free privilege, the ultimate recipient or consignee of the balikbayan box must be family or relative up to the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, the agency further stated.

Under CMTA’s Section 800 (g), balikbayan boxes should only contain personal and household effects such as wearing apparel, personal adornments, electronic gadgets, toiletries.

Goods in commercial quantities and those intended for sale or for hire are not covered by the duty and tax-free balikbayan box.

The sender is also required to submit an accomplished and signed Information sheet, which may be obtained from consolidators, value-added service providers or through the BOC website at

The sender must also secure a Tax Exemption Indorsement from the Department of Finance -Revenue Office.

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