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WHAT ARE ALLOWED IN BALIKBAYAN BOXES? Are these supposed to be taxed?


Are you an OFW?
A Filipino who works abroad? Do you also send balikbayan boxes?

Well, a lot of Filipino working in different parts of the world has been sending balikbayan boxes to the Philippines showing their love and care to their love ones. It has been a part of tradition and culture to promote strong family ties.

Why balikbayan boxes have been an issue nowadays especially Christmas is coming. It is simply because, a lot of OFW’s will be sending their boxes to the Philippines and some are not meant for ‘pasalubong’ or sending back their personal effects as “balikbayan” but for some, this is their way of business. For those who are confused what should you put in your balikbayan box. Let me walk you through the Philippines Bureau of Customs standards and regulation before we become hysterical on this in time issues.


As defined in Wikipedia, a balikbayan box (literally “repatriate box”) is a corrugated box containing items sent by overseas Filipinos (known as “balikbayans“). Though often shipped by freight forwarding specialists which can be found no matter where you are in the world, using boxes, Balikbayan boxes may contain items the sender thinks the recipient would like, regardless of whether those items can be bought cheaply in the Philippines, such as non-perishable food, toiletries, household items, electronics, toys, designer clothing, or items difficult to find in the Philippines. This sort of service can also be used for businesses too, in the hopes of providing a reliable and secure service for efficiency.


Non-commercial goods or goods not in commercial quantity strictly for personal use only, such as: wearing apparel, clothing, foodstuffs/grocery items/canned goods; the value of which must not exceed US$500.00 and each sender is only allowed to send one (1) box during a six (6) month period.

Canned goods, grocery items and household effects must not exceed a dozen of each kind, while apparel, whether used or new must not exceed 3 yards for each cut.

Home appliances are not allowed unless these are consigned to returning Filipino residents and overseas workers.

The US$500.00 amount as mentioned above is based on a conversion rate of $1=Php 7 or P3,500.00 when the Presidential decree from President Ferdinand Marcos was issued which is subsequently raised to P10,000.00 as mentioned by Customs Chief Alberto Lina in one of his TV interviews.

For me, this amount is too obsolete compared to the prices of goods nowadays.



Yes, a 100% examination of the consolidated shipment is required by law:

  1. To protect the legitimate interests of consignors/senders and their consignees, in particular, and the transacting public, in general;
  2. To protect the interest of the government;
  3. To prevent and suppress smuggling and other fraud upon customs.


These rules were approved so as to prevent the use of “balikbayan” privilege for smuggling and to also make sure that this is only for personal and not for business use. And in the part of customs, they also promised the extreme care and handling of the boxes which in our point of view should not be less than what we originally sent. In cases where some things are missing, it should be reported to proper agencies. For some it is not the reality per se, as a lot of OFWs are complaining in social media what these authorities are doing.

For OFWs, the government should look into this policy, instead of opening the boxes, why not use advanced technology on checking the boxes and maybe it requires a review and some amendments of the rules.

OFWs play a big role in the Philippine economy, maybe it’s about time to review the policies to respect hardworking individuals who are sacrificing a lot for their love ones and in some part are helping the Philippines through remittances.


Balikbayan box is for shipping personal goods only and is not taxable with some amount limitations as mentioned above which is Php 10,000.00. Philippine customs may impose customs duty if they inspect your box and feel that your items are intended for resale. Electronic items and appliances are taxable. The recipient is responsible for paying customs duties.

As quoted in ANC’s Headstart interview with the Customs Chief,

“Overseas Filipinos can list the items and present it to a broker, which will present the list to Customs. Lina, however, noted that brokers and freight forwarders do not submit these lists to Customs “so they would not have to pay duties and taxes.”

“[If you live abroad], you can bring anything but you will be taxed. There is no exemption. If you are a balikbayan with the intention of coming back to our country, with your passport and everything, like people who have studied abroad or returning OFWs, these are the only people given the privilege to bring in goods and that will not be taxed if the value of the goods is P10,000 and below,” he said.


A lot especially in social media are complaining about missing items on their balikbayan boxes. Some will be seen tampered with some items couldn’t be found by the owner or the box is wet.

According to BOC Chief, “customs can track which person inspected the boxes since there are several representatives present when the boxes are opened including the examiner, the intelligence officer, the freight forwarder and office of the collector.

Asked who should pay for the missing and destroyed items, he said: “Well, kung ang may kasalanan ay yuong Customs, kami ang magbabayad. Hindi pa naman natin natatanong kung sino ang may kasalanan dito. It was not only Customs [that opened the box.] The freight forwarder and brokers were also there.”

For me, whatever the truth behind all this, the authorities may need to revisit what is existing. The mere fact that they heard complaints from the senders of balikbayan boxes, means that something is happening and that a proper and quick action is needed. OFWs are not rich people, that’s the reason why they work abroad, to help their family and love ones have a comfortable lives through their hard earned money. So please respect and pay attentions on what they needed.

At the end of the day, OFWs are still considered our modern day heroes so for the government and people in authority, let’s treat them as they should be treated with respect just like treating their balikbayan boxes as valuable as it should be because for all we know their hearts are in these boxes too.


Sources: Wikipedia, BOC Website, ANC Headstart


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