the phil. bureau of customs is out to get you, or how we were asked to pay 982 pesos for a 1,300-peso package

To quote J’s sister, Isn’t the government supposed to have your back? But we all know that is not always rarely the case.

Based on the many, many anecdotes I’ve heard from friends and strangers, the Bureau of Customs needs to be cleaned. We all have an idea of how awfully brutal this department is in collecting arbitrary amounts from citizens receiving gifts and goods from abroad.

Here’s my story: Threadless shirts went on sale for $9.99 each, so I bought three shirts for J and I and paid via PayPal. So that’s 29.97 plus 9 dollars for the shipping charge. I was warned by a friend not to exceed 50 dollars to avoid being taxed by Customs.

You see, Customs is so dirty that citizens dread having their goods pass through it.

The shirts were shipped via DHL, and landed in the Customs office of the Parañaque PO (J lives in Pqe). Listen: I receive books from the US, which often end up in the Makati PO Customs office. I pay a parcel fee of 40 pesos, which I still don’t get. Why can’t my packages just reach me directly instead of going through Customs? Why do I need to pay a parcel fee? I already paid for shipping, why do I need to pay an additional fee once the damn thing enters the Philippines? Why?

So we received a similar notification from Pqe PO that we have a package (yay!) and we need to pick it up there and pay 40 pesos (boo).

I have work so I can’t go there personally, so we asked J’s driver, Kuya B, to pick it up for us.

So he paid the parcel fee.

And then Customs, in its infinite glory, asked for more than 900 pesos in fees. Keep in mind that the shirts cost less than 1,300 in total. Customs is asking us to pay more than half of the total price of the goods we already paid to be shipped to us.

Here’s their breakdown, signed by Collecting Officer Genesia B. Osil:

Calculation for Customs Duty:

Declared/Assessed Value (29.97) x Exchange Rate = Dutiable Value (PhP1,268) x Rate of Duty (15%) = PhP190

Calculation for Expanded Value Added Tax:

Dutiable Value (PhP 1268) + Customs Duty (PhP 190) + Fixed Customs Documentary Stamp (PhP 250) + Import Processing Fee (PhP 250) + BIR Stamps (PhP 15) = EVAT Base (PhP 1973) x EVAT Rate (12%) = PhP237


PhP 190 + 237 + Fixed Customs Documentary Stamp (PhP 250) + Import Processing Fee (PhP 250) + BIR Stamps (PhP 15) = PhP 942 + Parcel Fee (40) = PhP 982

Almost a thousand pesos of fees and taxes for a package in a plastic bag that costs less than 1,300 pesos. You see how fucked up this is.

Because of the outrageous calculation, Kuya B spoke with the Customs guy. He haggled. Can you imagine – the fees are so arbitrary that Customs allowed haggling!

The Customs guy said, O sige, 500 na lang. Pero wala nang resibo.

500 na lang daw! Wow. MARAMING SALAMAT. Ang bait mo naman.

To end the conversation and to finally have the package released, Kuya B paid a total of PhP 540. Where did that money go? Did the guy just put that in his pocket?

You might say, You should be glad they asked for only 540 instead of the actual 982 written on the receipt. I’d say, No. Because are you kidding me?!

You might say, You shouldn’t have haggled. I’d say, But Kuya B was just asked to run this errand, and he wanted to get this package. I don’t blame him. I blame Customs.

You might say, If going through Customs is such a hassle, then just avoid receiving packages from abroad. I’d say, Really? That’s your solution?

If I had gone there myself, this Customs dude, and the entire PO, would have gotten an earful. But I didn’t. So we end up with this tale.


The End.

And I will close this post with a smile and a Threadless shirt:

Do you have your own Customs horror story? Leave a comment.

UPDATE: Kind friends sent this post’s URL to Ruffy Biazon, Customs Commissioner, via Twitter. He replied. Read from the bottom up.

The Customs Commissioner himself sees no anomaly here, save for the haggling. So this is normal. So that’s that.

Here’s an FAQ on duty/tax imposed on articles.

Tax computation reference. (IPF is the same for all items up to P250,000.)

Tariff rates from the Tariff Commission.

UPDATE 2. Welp, got this message from a friend, which I RT’d.


Same item, same brand, different PO, different fees. And this is not arbitrary, Mr. Biazon? And this is okay?

Enough said. Move on na akech!

50 thoughts on “the phil. bureau of customs is out to get you, or how we were asked to pay 982 pesos for a 1,300-peso package

  1. I had to pay a fee similar to yours, too, when I picked up my threadless package last year. It was for 3 shirts that I got from their sale too. Natrauma na ako after nun. Never again. Then I made the mistake of asking for a catalog from SVA, which should’ve been delivered to my house for free BUT somehow hinold pa rin sa PO by customs and I was charged P150 for it (fee daw for ”holding it” doon). Putangina talaga ng customs, or maybe our local PO hates me? Sa ibang post offices di naman ganito. :(

    I posted about it but since I took my tumblr page down, I don\’t have it online anymore. Maybe I\’ll repost it soon and come back here.

    PS: I just realized you\’re in Pque too.

  2. Are your orders from the US? I usually have mine shipped via Johnny Air because it no longer passes through customs. At times, it is a bit more expensive (because they ship by the pound, with a minimum of 800-something pesos for items 1 pound or below) but I always get my things a week or two after purchase and they consolidate packages when you give them a heads-up. I’ve had purchases of well over a hundred dollars and they were delivered without any problems.

    Personally I can’t deal with the crap Customs has to put people through. I’ve heard stories from friends whose purchases never got to them because it was ‘lost’.

  3. My personal story years ago.

    I’ve since then just coursed stuff through Johnny Air (if I can’t find anyone to bring it home first). They tell you upfront if there are any special handling fees (i.e. extra x amount for electronics, etc.) So you don’t get blindsided once it hits philippine shores.

    You arrange with them, they send the item (you can pre-pay or do a COD, either way there are no surprise fees) then you pick it up at their office (or any of their pickup points in the malls)

  4. the first time i came home from the US…. may dala akong mga DVDs… the customs person at the airport wanted to charge me $500 for 3 original DVDs… Nagpalusot na lang ako at sinabi ko film student ako… the dvds for my research. I was lucky not to get charged. However, I know that more people were not so lucky.

  5. It’s just baffling that they charged you for a $30 order. When I ordered hair dye that amounted to $80, I was told I had to pay fees. Admittedly, I expected this but I was still annoyed so I asked them why (because I wanted to hear it straight from a post office employee, and not from blog entries lol). They said it was because my order went over $50. I told them that was the first time I’ve ever been charged and mentioned that I had claimed a package from the Pasig Post Office a while back that amounted to $60something (shipping included; the guy opened it, asked what it was for, and then gave the go-signal that it was fine). They then said that it was because some sellers don’t declare the real value (one of them brought out a package from Romwe that had a declared value of $10 and said “Wala namang galing sa Romwe na ganyan kamura, chinecheck namin sa internet” lol).

    It’s just so inconsistent, cos we’re all under the impression that orders below $50 won’t be taxed. Tapos alam mo na mali because they offered to haggle (QC Post didn’t).

  6. Hi Eliza! Duty tax is also pretty expensive over here when you have something sent from abroad. But you’re right, books shouldn’t be taxed. There should be no tax either if the cost of a product doesn’t exceed a certain amount. The extra you had paid for, and especially the haggling – was unacceptable. And really sad how you know it’s all corruption and power-tripping. Kung ayaw mong magbayad, hindi mo makukuha goods mo.

    My story as a sender to the Philippines: I had two small parcels sent through regular post that my family never received (one mailed from Finland and one from England, nothing expensive, just souvenirs). So my solution was to send via registered mail, but Royal Mail couldn’t track them anymore as soon as they reach Philippine soil. Pricey but it always worked. I haven’t sent anything through regular post since early last year when I noticed that my family never received even the small things anymore, such as Christmas cards or a thick envelope full of photographs. I don’t know why – maybe Customs thought I put money in them??? It would be silly to use registered mail in sending a little Christmas card!

    I do know that Customs in RP is pretty bad, but in my case I don’t know whether the post reached San Fernando in Pampanga and were not just delivered to my hometown. I don’t know how it works with other couriers but to be honest, I’ve always been hesitant to send stuff to the Philippines. I felt safe mailing boxes to myself (!) whilst studying in Europe (that is, the boxes arrive safely at my new residence before I move in). But in all my seven years here, I haven’t sent a balikbayan box to my family. People I know seem to have good stories about balikbayan boxes, but personally, I’m worried about the extra fees. I would rather give my family the money, and on top of that, the one that would be spent on shipping and Customs.

    • Sad too that the BOC commish saw this post and said there’s no anomaly except for the haggling. We were asked to pay more than half the actual price of the goods! And that’s okay???

      I give up. Next time I buy stuff from abroad, I’ll make sure there’s someone in the vicinity (a relative or a friend) who can take it home with them. That’s how J got a copy of NAME OF THE WIND. Hehe.

  7. Or (sorry naman ang obsessive ko) pero going by the Customs website tax calculator, if we consider the Fixed Charges as Other Charges under Dutiable Value, then they should only be computed under the Customs Duty. redundant na kung ipapasok pa uli siya under the VAT calculation. at redundundundundant pa lalo kung i-add uli siya sa basic/summary formula.

    basta may naaamoy akong redundancy sa calculation according to the receipt. mukhang iba siya sa formula sa website. ‘di lang ako marunong mag-Math :))

  8. Same thing happens sa amin, we ordered shirts and other threadless items for the GC we won. More or less the total price was $500. And the guy on the philpost told us that we have to pay around 10,000 for the ‘tax and sumthing sumthing’ to claim the items, 10k?!! wtf?!! Kaya ngaun mega research what remedy could we do. Urgh!

  9. mr. ruffy biazon may be right in saying that there is no anomaly because the customs followed through with the prescribed computation and the receipts…. which is actually true… which leaves us with the conclusion that the problem IS THE SYSTEM !!!!! change the entire system of customs taxation because it is just RIDICULOUS to be taxed by almost 100% of the value of the item. Filipinos are willing to pay taxes and have been paying taxes but, it is already beyond logic when you put high duties on imported items that was purchased for personal use and at such minimal quantities. The charges they impose is so irrelevant, to think that the item you ordered does not even get delivered to your house. Biazon has been sitting on his ass on these important issues and it seems like he has no plans of changing the system. Mails and logistics is a billion dollar industry in first world countries and is a very important infrastructure of a country. The US delivers millions of parcels everyday and their delivery service is outstanding. I can’t say the same with us…. Philippine postal office does not deliver anything…. it’s so pathetic that we have to pick it up ourselves and be subjected to a system that only promotes corruption and continually inhibits the growth of our economy. sigh! Goodluck Philippines!

  10. Your packages were sent to you via regular airmail, right? I thought only EMS packages get charged for customs duties but I was wrong. I claimed two parcels (sent via airmail as well) at our local PO a month ago and only paid 50PHP for each because the total value was just around 20USD (the seller intentionally “under declared” the price; maybe he knew how customs work here in Pinas). The customs official only looked for the total declared value, and he let it pass (I believe) because it was not beyond 50USD. The lady before me who claimed a package (which contained just 1-2 shirts) was charged more than a thousand pesos!

    I will claim some packages again next month but I still don’t know if I’ll be charged or not. I was surprised that you were charged when your items only cost 29.97USD! WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO FIND RELEVANT INFO ABOUT CUSTOMS DUTIES AND TAXES IN THIS COUNTRY?!?

  11. Hi thanks for this Blog Eliza. yay, me too I had experience with the Customs. Last Feb. 2012, I won an IPAD 2 64 gb from an online Short Film-Making Contest which was hosted in Germany, so the prize has to be shipped here in the Philippines c/o Manila Post Office. I do received the claiming receipt 2 months after I was notified of the winning. I immediately went to Manila Post Office on the afternoon when the Package notification arrived. When I got there I paid the P40 parcel fee then proceed to claiming section, a representative from the Bureau of Customs approached me and asked for the claiming/stab. The package was well sealed, and He unwrapped it infront of me. Here’s the dillema then. He noticed that the declared value of the item was way too low than the actual market value of the IPAD 2 during that time, ( I believed the custom Guy was tech-savvy), Anyway so He computed the tax based on the market prize of the item totaled to P3,800 +++ ( I forgot the exact value since it was almost P4k). I try to haggle, He agreed me to pay P2,000 but without receipt. I haggled again, I told Him that I was only a student, which I really was. I asked for P1,000 and He agreed w/o receipt and voila I got the package.

    But I guessed, I should have not haggled because I got involved with this act of corruption. what can I say I was only a student then and not well represented with this kind of issue. Nevertheless, I brought this thing up because I am hoping if the Bureau of Customs that after almost 2 years have already addressed a uniform and truthful Tax calculation without corruption.
    Does anyone have an idea this 2014 or atleast 4th quarter of 2013 tried to claim a package on the BOC c/o POSTAL office?How the tax calculation goes? I would like to order online from U.S.A once again, but I am afraid not, that I might write another Customs story .(hopefully a good one this time) Hah!;D

    Anyway, Thank you everyone and Happy New Year!;-)


    • Hi Toby! Thanks for the comment and for sharing your story. If you’re going to order from abroad again, just have a relative or a friend carry it for you back to the Philippines because I don’t think the Customs office will clean up its act anytime soon. And as you can see in the post, even the head of the BOC didn’t think anything was amiss! So who do we turn to now?

  12. Hi. Nice Post! :)
    2 years ago i was also shocked when they were asking me to pay HUGE amout of tax for a simple package. But i did my study (sort of) . I did know how they compute these taxes. Maybe it will help you when you next import something to PH.

    Item : Dress
    Cost/Value: $50
    Insurance: if not declared, it is 4% of the Cost. $2
    Freight/Postage/Shipping: $10

    CIF = (Cost + Insurance + Freight) $62
    Dutiable Value = (CIF * Exchange Rate) $62 * 45 Php = Php 2,790
    Customs Duty = (Dutiable Value * Rate of Duty ) Php 2790 * 0.15 = Php 418.50
    *You can search for rate of Duty in

    Next thing to compute is VAT = Total Landed Cost * 12%
    Total Landed Cost = Dutiable Value + Customs Duty + Excise tax (if applicable)
    + Import Processing Fee Php 250 (Fixed) + Customs Doc. Stamp Php 265 (fixed)
    Php 2, 790.00
    Php 418.50
    Php 0.00
    Php 250.00
    Php 265.00
    Php 3, 723.50 * VAT
    VAT = Php 446.82
    Lets do the summary:
    Customs Duty : Php 418.50
    Value added Tax : Php 446.82
    Excise Tax: Php 0.00
    IPF: Php 250.00
    CDS: Php 265.00
    TOTAL : Php1, 380.32

    Yeah. I know its a lot for a 2.7k item. But it is our law here. Thats why we cant only Blame our Customs because they are only implementing these laws. Why cant we blame our legislators? Our legislators who never experienced such hassle in importing stuff because they have the “POWER”. Our legislators who wrote and made these policies and laws. Since we cant do anything to change these laws, let us just watch these taxes where they go. Dont make “TAWARAN” with customs because you yourself made these people corrupt. Lets pay these taxes and sure that it is due and reasonable. Also we should be aware of these existing policies and procedures before we say that these Customs Personnels are Corrupt or bunch of A**holes. We may insult others that is doing good and trying not to be influenced by the wrong system. Let us just be fair. You can go to their website, contact them if you have complaints and questions. i heard they are now answering queries from the public and they even have a twitter account @CustomsPH.

    PS. There is another computation in Customs Clearance in airports. I think you would only pay Customs Duty + Excise (if applicable) + VAT + Php 115.00 (instead of 250 and 265)

    • I have also shown the computation on my post. What I don’t understand is the arbitrariness of the computation. As you can see, a friend who has ordered the same items from the same store in the US only paid for the PhilPost holding fee.

  13. Gotta love the Makati Central PO for this, they consistently don’t tax packages that are worth less than $50 .
    I’m not really sure if the $50 limit is part of the law, since the Customs web site mentions nothing of the sort, but at least they relieve the people of having to pay a ridiculous amount for two stamps and a processing fee for what is supposed to be their job in the first place.

  14. Stumbled in your blog while reading Customs Fees horror stories and I think I need to tell mine as well.

    Ever since sarado na yung suking Japanese CD shop after 4 years of consistently buying there, I have to import most of my Japanese CDs straight from the source itself. Luckily naman, nakakakuha naman ako ng murang source and a good forwarder for my goods. I have had my packages delivered straight to me about 4 times and my orders never go above $50 both shipping and the product itself. I became somewhat compulsive in my buying habits since I’m really collecting these stuff and the local post delivers it to me 3 days after it is shipped from Japan.

    Unfortunately, I became a bit “too” greedy; I ordered 9 CDs which cost about 2,300 JPY.

    What’s worse is that it landed on a Holiday.

    And as expected I checked EMS Tracking: “In Customs.”

    I prepared myself with the rising tumult; armed with the tax computation they had online and the tax examples some blogs had writted about. My items were pretty transparent in their pricing; my forwarder not only posts the item’s pricing on the invoice and the EMS shipping price in the package itself, there are also invoices inside the package which prove that the items’ pricing are in tune with what’s outside. More or less I ended up paying about 1,001 pesos for the items, about 100% more than what I actually paid for my items.

    To be honest, the actual “tax” in itself is not expensive. The real bummer is the extra “stamp” and fees that eat up a guaranteed 565, which is more or less the constant. These guys should consider that I am ordering Japanese CDs. Where in the Philippines can you buy Japanese Pop CDs but from Japan? How in the world can you support Philippine industries if I am buying Japanese music CDs?! Am I supposed to buy OPM CDs when I’m actually doing that already?!

    Anyhow, what they need is a total shakeup and some consistency. The new commissioner should be able to answer some of our hard-pressed questions, especially the $50 threshold. I think you’ll be the best person to do it since it’s always been in the rounds. Also, they should also reconsider slapping us that 565 peso (2014 costs) fee which jacks up the price. There seems to be no consistency in this facility. It’s almost as if we legit taxpayers are paying the price of what these smugglers are evading and thus we end up being their milking cow every time they have these collections.

    Some things I would like to point out:

    1 – As much as possible, try to keep your orders small.
    2 – Avoid doing multiple orders and try to put some space when you’re ordering. For example, order this week but give a space of about 1 week or so before ordering again. They will keep a tab on you.
    3 – Keep up with the holidays and anticipate that your package will not land during the weekends or holidays; customs seem to be extremely industrious during Mondays and days after the holidays. It might hold true too during weather disturbances.
    4 – A friend told me to avoid having orders landed or shipped when it’s near the 15th or the 30th.
    5 – A $50 price tag for shipping and price of the package itself will not guarantee that you’ll not be slapped with customs fees.
    6 – A slower shipping method like surface mail and SAL may be slower but will keep your packages under the radar though this is not guaranteed to be 100% most of the time.
    7 – Balikbayan Boxes, as far as I know are not “taxed” because they are deemed to be “personal effects.”
    8 – If you’re ordering from the US, I think Johnny Air Cargo or are reliable forwarders that are good in the long term.

      • And another thing. As much as possible, be honest with your transactions and show the receipt as much as possible. I think some of these guys are just doing their jobs…

        And honestly, I don’t think an overhaul will do it. It’s like running a rust bucket of a car. What it needs is total abolition. And Philpost should be privatized.

  15. this is just in…. got vouchers for FREE photobooks and paid php130 x8 = P1,040.00 shipping fee for the 6in x 6in FREE photobooks… pag dating sa PO had to pay Php50 EACH for all the 8 photobooks… that’s an additional php400.00— Php0.00 value nun item may tax pa rin???!

  16. Last 2013 I bought a cellphone worth 6,000+ and it got sent at Las Pinas Post Office. I was charged P1,260 for “taxes” and they told me that I should just keep it below $50 to avoid paying taxes. Fast forward to Sept. 2014 I bought a phone worth P1,300 and I am still charged P721. They now say that the “below $50 tax exemption rule” is obsolete. Huwaat? Now I’m thinking that they just say that to appease you when your purchase is over $50, but when your purchase is really below $50 they will make alibis and take back what they said. Can anyone post in this blog which post office branches really adhere to that below $50 tax exemption rule? I read that Makati and Laguna branches aren’t as corrupt, but the customs officers get transferred after some time to another branch so it may affect how the people are being charged. I was told that info when I asked how come the old customs officer is gone and they said she was transferred to another branch.

  17. Just tell them that you are a blogger and you will post a review for the item that you received. It worked for me, I only paid for the Philpost fee which is around 50Php. ;D

  18. sa manila post office kahit less than $50 are taxed then ihahaggle para maliit lang bayaran mo. Our government tax at work! makapanlamang lang.

  19. Actually the anomaly starts with these 3 useless factors CUSTOMS DOC STAMPS, IMPORT PROCESSING FEE, BIR STAMP TAX. Oh i forgot the PHILPOST FEE. PH customs finds a lot of ways to charge the locals. In Germany they ONLY charge people with TAX (19% of the declared value) if your package reaches 40euro. Third world countries really are cruel.

  20. Customs in the Philippines is a total SCAM. Today I receive an item costing 33 peso, and the NEW MINIMUM charge has been doubled to 100 peso. So I end up paying 4 times the original cost of shipping??? I had shipped a half full container to the Philippines which contained personal household used goods that were exempt by law with my visa. They wanted close to 5 million peso ransom. When I did not pay since there is no ATM around where that is even possible my entire container DISAPPEARED from all records like it never existed??? Shipping fees in PI are 10 times higher than most other countries, and people make 10 times less doing similar jobs with similar education requirements. Even doing business within the country I end up spending DOUBLE the cost of the goods so to get to point A to point B. This explains why the sari-sari business is so common, and why the country is STILL a 3rd world developing nation. Because it is not developing anything except corrupt government officials at the expense of the majority. We’ll folks I HOPE YOU ALL SPENT YOUR FEW THOUSAND PESOS in bribe money at ELECTION TIME WISELY and it was worth it in the end to just be poor.

  21. Me too had this problem with a customs officer , I picked up my package that i ordered from china, i bought it on a sale price of 10 usd from a regular price of 38 usd. Which they gave me 70% off. They were asking me an invoice for me to get my package even if the item calue is already written at the packaging, i told them it was almost 2 months ago when i ordered that item and i didnt kept the invoice from the website. They checked the website and they saw the item and it was already in regular price of 38usd. There were alot of negotiations which is really not needed coz if they really have to put tax on it, it should be in black and white. Finally after all the shits, i payed a surprising amount of 2456 pesos that i dont even f*cking know what kind of computstion they did. Horrible these system. I dont understand how many ppl are complaining and still no one in higher govt even look after these BUWAYA’s” thats what u called. ” Only in the Philippines! “

  22. If you choose EMS as shipping method, it will definitely get taxed. I picked up a 3k-peso package (including shipping costs) from Customs and although the tax computation seemed alright (I paid 800 + 100 for phlpost), I could have saved a lot more have I chosen a different method (perhaps SAL or Airmail). Others have suggested Johnny Air for US shipments to Philippines.

    NOTE TO BLOGGER: I read your official receipt and it looked like you were asked to pay twice for the ‘fixed fees’ which is ridiculous! After the second section, notice that when they summarized the costs, the fixed fees were charged again. It should have been around 400-500 only! Although I do not condone the haggling, it wasn’t you who came personally, and I definitely cannot blame the proxy. What’s funny is (then) commissioner himself cannot see the problem with the receipt! :))

    I cannot say if today’s conditions have improved. I’ve seen a lot of reports and complaints. The most important thing is to research before buying products abroad (especially if it has to go through customs). Always prepare more cash when picking up your package just to make sure. I probably won’t order online for a while; it’s exhausting as hell.

    • …Or is the fixed charges separated because of the VAT? But still, it might have something to do with the fixed rates. So no matter how big or small the package is, it will be charged a minimum of 500 pesos. UGH.

  23. Whoa, I’m supposed to pick up tomorrow 2 dvd from the US which was sent by a friend. She said no worries because she paid for everything. Oh, I hope pag pick up ko sa post office wala ako bayarang OTHER fees.

  24. I just sent my niece an iPad this Christmas. And when she went and inquired yesterday custom asked her a fee of 3,626.00 pesos. That’s is ridiculous!

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