DOF clarifies tax and duty exemptions on imported books

A January 4, 2012 press release from the Department of Finance

The Finance department has issued an order clarifying exemptions on imported books both for personal and commercial use as provided for under the Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Materials also known as the Florence Agreement.

Department Order No. 57-2011 dated December 9 particularly exempted books for “personal use” from any extensive documentary requirements, but such importations “should be cleared and released through the required declaration of goods as provided under existing rules and regulations.”

“This declaration of goods form is part of the normal process in importing goods wherein you declare anything that you will bring in to the Philippines,” said Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima, explaining the order he signed.

“One example is the one you have to fill out upon arriving at the airport. You need to check if you will bring in goods from other countries, but this does not necessarily mean that you will have to pay for it,” he added.

The order, published in the Philippine Star last December 25, said all imported books, whether for commercial or personal use are “exempt from customs duties and value-added tax (VAT) pursuant to Section 109 (R) of the National Internal Revenue Code.”

This was in accordance with the Florence Agreement, initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and to which the Philippines is signatory since 1952. The agreement mandates contracting states not to apply customs duties or other charges on “educational, scientific and cultural materials” such as books and newspapers, except on those published “essentially for advertising purposes.”

Purisima’s order reiterated these exemptions, classifying tax-exempt books as either for commercial or personal in quantity.

Books that are for “personal use” are those “embracing all articles of personality not considered as merchandise.” This should “not exceed 12 copies of any one work when imported by an institution or six copies of any one work when imported by an individual.”

Otherwise, imports will be treated as of “commercial quantity,” considered “in excess of what is compatible and commensurate with a person’s normal requirements,” the order stated.

Under this classification, the order said importers must first present an endorsement from the Revenue Office of the Finance department, certifying that products to be imported fall within those granted tax and duty exemptions by the Florence Agreement.

The order listed down documentary requirements that need to be submitted to secure such endorsement. They are: bill of landing, commercial invoice, packing list with title of books, affidavit to the effect that the shipment consists of books, certification from UNESCO Office in the Philippines attesting that the importation/s is/are covered by the Florence Agreement, and registration certificate with the National Book Development Board as book importer or publisher.

In case of donated books, a deed of donation duly authenticated by the Philippine Consulate abroad and deed of acceptance must be provided, the order stated. An authority is also required should the consignee assign a representative to facilitate the books’ release.

Purisima said books and publications for “advertising purposes” are not exempted from duties and taxes as per the Florence Agreement.

Annex A of the agreement stated that “stationery, newspapers and periodicals in which the advertising matter is in excess of 70% by space and all other items in which advertising is in excess of 25% by space” are not covered by tax and duty exemptions.

In issuing the order, the Finance chief said his department wants to provide a clear guide for book importers.

“This is in order to put everything into black and white and to provide importers with a document they can refer to whenever they have questions regarding book importations and when they are tax-and duty-free,” Purisima explained.


Learn more about books and taxes.

How to apply for book import duty exemption