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Does Philippine Customs overcharge?

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Over the years, I have had items shipped into the Philippines from various places.  Sometimes I order goods and have them shipped in.  Sometimes friends and readers send me gifts (thank you to those who have done so, BTW).  In addition to my own experiences, I also hear from others who e-mail me or talk to me in person and ask about having items shipped in and problems that they have experienced in doing so.

I have experienced problems with this kind of thing over the years too.

Visa Assistance

Probably the most complaints that I hear from foreigners on this topic are complaints about customs charges.  I have done some looking into this, though, and have learned a bit, so I thought I’d share this information with you today.

I remember about 5 years ago, I had a new DSLR camera.  It was an expensive model at the time, a Canon Rebel XT.  I paid over $1,000 for it and the accessories that came with it.  A friend hand carried this for me to the Philippines, so there was no customs to be concerned with.  However, I decided to order two extra battery packs for the camera through Amazon.  These were both after-market batteries (not Canon brand batteries).  They were very inexpensive, the two batteries cost less than $15.  So, I did not expect that customs would really be a big issue, given the low price of the batteries.  When the batteries were delivered (as I recall it was either through FedEX or DHL), the “customs charge” was nearly $50.  $50 taxes on a pair of batteries that cost less than $15?  Whoa!

Over the years I have heard such stories from many expats.  They pay charges of $30 to $50 for customs on items that are worth way less than that!  It doesn’t seem right.  Our conversations always seem to turn to the fact that the Philippine Customs Department is charging way too much on such packages.  Or are they?

Well, I have found that they really are not overcharging at all.  The vast bulk of that money you are paying for customs is not going to the Government at all.  It is going to FedEX, DHL, UPS and such, the people who are handling the shipping.  You see, those companies are charging you to fill out the papers for customs.  There are reports and declarations that must be filed to facilitate the inspection of those packages by the Customs Department.  The shipping companies are charging huge amounts just to fill out that paperwork, and the cost is to be paid by the recipient of the package.  For example, if you send a package to your girlfriend or wife here in the Philippines, it might cost her $50 just to receive the package, because of the charges.  And, you can bet that the shipping company is getting the vast majority of those funds (even though you already paid a shipping charge).  In fact, I believe that the shipper may be getting $49 out of $50 that they charge to you, just for filling out the forms!

In the past month, I have gotten two packages from the USA.  The first package contained some items that I ordered from a seller on eBay.  The seller was in North Carolina, USA.  The total amount of the items that I ordered was about $275.  When the package arrived, do you know how much the customs charge was?  P40.  That’s a little less than $1.  Last week, I got another package.  This was from a blog reader and Facebook friend, he sent me a gift.  I don’t know for sure the value of the items he sent me, but I suppose reasonably it could be around $100 or so.  Know how much I paid for customs?  P40 again.

Why am I paying so little for customs suddenly?

It’s simple.  Both of these packages were sent through the Post Office.  Yes, that’s right, through the Post Office.  It is notorious that the Philippine Post Office (it’s called PhilPost) is rampant with corruption.  Perhaps you have experienced such corruption… a package you sent never arrived, or it arrived missing some items.  Well, the truth is that I have never had such an experience using PhilPost.  But, I am not saying that such incidents don’t happen, I am only saying that I believe they occur way less often than you may believe from “what you hear.”

The key to using the Post Office and getting your package there safely lies in using some type of mailing that is registered and tracked.  A package that is registered and tracked can easily be shown where it went astray if such an event happens.  That makes it more difficult for somebody to steal, and thus makes it a lot more likely that your package will make it to it’s destination.  Sending in a way that is registered and tracked is not so hard or expensive.  You just need to use a service like International Priority mail or something of the sort.  You get a tracking number, and can check right on the Internet to find out where your package is.  And, the good thing is, for almost any package coming via the Post Office, the customs fee is P40.  That’s nothing!

Now, I am not advising you that if you want to send a watch or a diamond ring to the Philippines you should send it through the post office.  But, if you want to send some batteries for a camera, or some other item that is relatively low in value, well, the Post Office is a pretty reliable way to send it.  The shipping is also cheap, and I have found it reliable, and the customs fees are very low.  Why pay a shipping company to fill out papers?  Probably most of those forms are computer generated anyway.

So, next time you think that the Philippine Government is ripping you off with customs charges, look at the forms a little more carefully and see who is getting the bulk of that money!  You might just be surprised.  I know I was.

Posted in

Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur. Bob is an American who lived in Mindanao from 2000 until 2019. Bob has now relocated back to the USA.

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Robert G
Robert G
10 years ago

Bob

Now that is useful information. Thanks

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Robert G

Hi Robert – I’m glad that you found it useful. I know that I was surprised when I learned more about those customs charges!

Papa Duck
Papa Duck
10 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Bob,

Good info to know, thanks so much. How about just sending regular first class letters?How is the reliability in receiving them? Thanks alot for any info you can provide. Have a nice day!

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Papa Duck

hi Papa Duck – To be honest, I use a mail consolidating service in the USA. All of my letters are gathered and sent to me via DHL whenever i request them to be sent. So, I have no experience using first class mail. Sorry about that.

Bob New York
Bob New York
10 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

I have sent at least 20 letters through the Postal Service to Iligan City and Cagayan De Oro. It takes about 3 weeks for them to get there. All of those I have sent did reach their destination I always send a confirmation letter to Hotels I make a reservation with, well ahead of time, as a back up. I believe mail from the USA arrives in Manila by air and is then sorted ( I don’t know if by hand or automation ), then it takes about 5 days from Manila to a postal distribution center in CDO. Once… Read more »

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Bob New York

It’s good that they all made it, Bob! Further confirmation.

ormoc city/rosenda
5 years ago
Reply to  Papa Duck

well in my experience ,my boyfriend sent me a box from the shipping company royal cargo,they charge me 13k for the custom airport clearance tax as they said,and they also tell me to pay 1k per/day for the storage fee,,if my box will store there for long,,for me it is to much,and i think its a scam..my question is do i really have to pay that kind of amount?most of the things inside the box purely electronics and gadgets and it weigh 29.9,hope you can help me provide me info to this..
thank you..have a good day

Papa Duck
Papa Duck
10 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Bob,

Thanks so much for the good info. How about sending letters by regular 1st class mail? When i live there permanently i will be receiving my annual tax statements. I’m worried about not receiving them. What do you suggest for this? Thanks alot for any info you can provide. Have a nice day!

Papa Duck
Papa Duck
10 years ago
Reply to  Papa Duck

Bob,

Sorry for the duplicate posts. I didn’t think the first one went through because it did not post up.

Casey Freidrich
Casey Freidrich
10 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hi Bob- Thanks for the great info. So does this mean that in order to get something sent via Phil Post in the Philippines I would need to send it via US Post from the States? I just wanted to clarify. Thanks!

MindanaoBob
10 years ago

That is correct, Casey. If you send it via USPS, it will enter the PhilPost system when it reaches the Philippines.

Gary Campbell
Gary Campbell
9 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Is that fee going to be the same with some thing like a laptop computer if sent through the post office registered mail from say Portland Oregon to Ormoc City Philippines?

Gary Campbell
Gary Campbell
9 years ago
Reply to  Gary Campbell

I mean the customs fee?

John Kornegay (Expat, Mindinao)
John Kornegay (Expat, Mindinao)
9 years ago
Reply to  Gary Campbell

The standard customs fee here for electronics is 12%. I purchase laptops from the USA on a regular basis for my business and its always 12%. That’s not bad in my opinion.

John Kornegay (Expat, Mindinao)
John Kornegay (Expat, Mindinao)
9 years ago

Oh, I forgot to mention that I always use USPS Priority Mail International and I’ve never had a problem with delivery or miss-handling of the items whether it was a laptop or delicate electronic parts that I needed to repair a clients computer. 2 thumbs-up for USPS!!!

Gem
Gem
8 years ago

Ugh i paid for almost 1847.00 just for the doll.
How stupid that they are charging too much.

MindanaoBob
9 years ago
Reply to  Gary Campbell

No way of knowing. But, the customs fee on a laptop will be high, that is certain.

vhal
vhal
9 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

how much fee is it?

MindanaoBob
9 years ago
Reply to  vhal

As I already said, Vhal, I have no way of knowing. Any number I would say would be nothing but a guess.

Efren
Efren
9 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hello Bob I bought sale bag only £39 then send to Royal mail last July 1 then arrived in Manila July 10 but until now my gf don’t receive my parcel. And she told me they want to charged about 4200 pesos that means the bag cheap but the taxes is too

MindanaoBob
9 years ago
Reply to  Efren

It takes time, Efren. Once it arrives in the Philippines, it takes time at the Bureau of Customs.

JB
JB
8 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

My Experience With Philippine Customs and FedEx on 26 March 2014 (FedEx tracking #580893940167) On 02 March 2014 I ordered a signal amplifier for a ‘remote control toy car Tx’ and the manufacturer in China had it shipped to me via Hong Kong Post on 03 March 2014. The declared value of the item was US$33.00. According to Hong Kong Post tracking website the item arrived in Manila on 10 March 2014 and was subsequently delivered to my local post office in Cavite on 21 March 2014. Why it took 10 days to reach my local post office is a… Read more »

alexis
alexis
8 years ago
Reply to  JB

hi sir…

can you send me the link of that acfta classification of goods so could learn more about it… thnks a lot

rich
7 years ago
Reply to  alexis

I know you did not ask me but you can find the tariffs here: http://www.tariffcommission.gov.ph/ is the link for tariff fees and schedules

BROKER
BROKER
7 years ago
Reply to  JB

In relation to duties and taxes classification. Please be advised that ACFTA, JPEPA etc can only be used as classification when item was accompanied by a Certificate of Origin from its origin country otherwise the MFN rate will be used

Marlon Sto. Tomas
Marlon Sto. Tomas
7 years ago
Reply to  JB

Very good information and now i know. It same what happen from me but my experience is very worst. My parcel is around 1000US and i paid about 13000pesos because they hold in custom in 15days and a pay the storage fee, because they hold it of their reason – they need a documents. They say my declation value is around 1000US. But i only know is you pay the duty and taxes in BOC is the rules.

alex
alex
4 years ago
Reply to  JB

Hi JB! Your comment was posted in 2014. But I still find this a very invaluable information you got here now in 2017. As I am about to make my very first purchase in Ebay anytime soon, I am very wary and anxious about the tax PhilPost will charge me with the $24.99 worth of flash triggers. I felt consoled when you mentioned Hongkong Post as it is the post my seller is using. Thank you for sharing your experience. God bless you.

Lizzy Punay
Lizzy Punay
8 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hi Bob. I am thinking of ordering a pair of rubber shoes via ebay. The seller says he will be shipping them via Registered Airmail(from Japan). Does this mean that these shoes will be sent to my local post office? Will the tax still be P40 if the shoes are worth P5,500? Thanks and will appreciate a reply.

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  Lizzy Punay

Yes, it will go to the Post office. I have no way of knowing how much the tax was be.

Lizzy Punay
Lizzy Punay
8 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Thanks Bob.

G
G
7 years ago
Reply to  Lizzy Punay

you will definitely be charged…I and some guy were at the post office complaining about the shockingly high charge..his was ordered from Japan…mine was from china…he was charged 4K plus php for 2 bags he says was worth 2K total…

Lei
Lei
8 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hi. I am from Los Angeles California. I recently sent a package to the Philippines for my aunt. I used the United States Postal Service. I filed out the Customs form they gave me at the post office and paid the fee. The value of the package is less than $40. The package got to the post office in the Philippines and they sent my aunt a notice to claim the package. They are charging her 1,100 pesos to claim the package. I was surprised! Is there any way to waive that fee since I already paid for the shipping… Read more »

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  Lei

I am sorry, I know of no legal way to avoid the taxes.

rechelle
rechelle
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

i wish this is the case with me. I sent my sister a laptop and declared 300 dollars on the custom form. I used USPS priority. Custom in the MAnila is asking her to pay P2600 to pick it up. Thats over 50 dollars, on top of the 70 dollars that I paid USPS. I called USPS and ask them if its true that large portion of the custom tax will go to them and not the philippines, they laugh at that lie! It is not true. NONE of that money will go to USPS.

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  rechelle

Hello Rechelle – Apparently you did not read the article carefully, or didn’t understand what you read. I never said anything about USPS getting part of the money. I said UPS gets part of it if they are handling the package, and they do. They (and FedEX and others) charge extra on the customs to cover their fees.

Rechelle
Rechelle
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

I did read your blog.You did say that if you send it through the post office fee should only be P40. And this is what I meant. This was not my case, the post office is now charging my sister 2,600 pesos, not 40. SO i just assumed, maybe since they want that much, i figured I should call the USPS and ask if portion of that huge amount will go to them, just like how it would go to UPS ,fed ex,etc, as you mentioned. Call me ignorant as I dont know any reasons why the fee will be… Read more »

Joe
Joe
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

greetings Robert,

I have recently sent a laptop computer two very good friend of mine in the Philippines, it recently arrived at customs, what I need to know is, what is the extent of them checking this package do they totally take apart the box and everything and open up the computer? Or do they just do a brief examination of the package? Can you answer any or all these questions please,

Thanx,
Joe Willis

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Hi Joe – They will do whatever they feel is appropriate. It just depends on how they feel at the time. They could take everything apart, or they might not even open the package.

Michael Anderson
Michael Anderson
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hi Bob,
I sent a small cell phone to Phil, near Ormoc. I sent it from the US Post Office, and paid around $25 to ship it. It arrived 5 weeks later, and my recipient had to pay 35 usd! Is this normal? Thanks!

MindanaoBob
7 years ago

Actually, no, that is not normal. For a cellphone I would have expected the charge to be MUCH higher than that.

Kay
Kay
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hi Bob,

I ordered sticky notes ( around 2 reams) and papers 70mm by 22mm size of 15 pcs online via kickstarter (all cost 90USD). The company is based in CA and said they are planning to deliver the package using US postal office.

Any advice?

Last time I got something shipped from twice from Hongkong (clocks and pen gadgets online) [declared cost at 22USD] I got to pay around 1000php to 2000php for customs fee. it was via DHL though.

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Kay

There is only one thing you can do, Kay – wait and see what happens. Good luck.

Allen
Allen
4 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

I have a important question…. I have a broken computer and need to send it to Australia to get it repaired…. would you say it is safe to send it out using 2GO via FedEx? Lastly since this is not a newly purchased item but an item that needs repair when I have it shipped back to Philippines will I be hit with an import fee? Also does it need any paperwork with item to verify it was only a repair so i am not charged?

Ivan
Ivan
10 years ago
Reply to  Robert G

Hi There…..

I ám working in Korea and planning to send a laptop through EMS…but unfortunately my brother lives in Bukidnon and I’ve read that they have to personally pick the items in Custom’s office in Pasay..Is there any other option that it would reach Bukidnon?

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Ivan

Hi Ivan – I live in Davao City and have never had to go pick up anything in Pasay before, and I get lots of packages.

John Philip Solano
John Philip Solano
10 years ago
Reply to  Robert G

Thanks for the info.. You’re awesome 😀

pie
pie
9 years ago
Reply to  Robert G

do you have any idea how much it cost for shipping a car to philippines? i would like to ship my bmw from germany. probably how much it will cost???

MindanaoBob
9 years ago
Reply to  pie

Generally, the duty on a car is 100% of the new price of the car. That does not include the shipping, only the taxes. Also, you cannot ship in a car that is more than 5 years old.

Tom Ramberg
Tom Ramberg
10 years ago

Hi Bob,

It might be worth noting that the sender has to be careful what they declare the value of the package to be. My daughter sent a package with maybe $100 US value to it. On the label she indicated that the value was around $200 because she included the postage. The post office here in GenSan opened and inspected the contents and charged me a hefty fine er I mean fee. I did get a laptop battery sent from Hong Kong and the fee was small.

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Tom Ramberg

Hi Tom – That’s an interesting experience. I never had such a problem with the Post Office.

Corey Bolduc
Corey Bolduc
5 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hello yes I sent my wife two packages through USPS Priority from NOV 25 and the declared value was a little under $80 us and the shipping fee was $175. They didn’t give any tracking information for this package. what is the normal time it takes to get to the philipines and how long for customs, she lives in Quezon city? and how much would the estimated taxes? She has not received any notice of of today. thank you

MindanaoBob
5 years ago
Reply to  Corey Bolduc

I’m sorry, there’s really no way to know. It is different every time. There’s no set amount of time it varies a lot.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Bob..good post….as far as sending thru the USA post office…you the sender do the paper work before you take to the post office and then they put it all in their computor data base and etc and its a done deal….How ever..its more work now than what it used to be…I no because send stuff international from time to time and the Customs here in the USA changed things some what…you have to list each item on the custom form..the weight and the cost and my quess is that what you total up with better come close to what they… Read more »

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Dan

Hi Dan – Thanks for sharing your experiences. It sounds like you’ve done a fair amount of international shipping!

Paul
Paul
10 years ago

Hi Bob – A lot of the confusion regarding customs overcharging runs all the way back in history to the Spanish era. Customs officers were appointed individuals who were in favor with the government. Unpaid, they were required to pay the crown a certain amount of money each year, regardless of the amount of duties they collected. Additionally, they were free to set their own duty fees. Any excess collections over the amount due to the crown were considered their “salary.” Needless to say, those customs officers in ports such as Manila, Cebu, etc. lived the high life and amassed… Read more »

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul – Set your own duty? That sounds like the kind of job for me! 😉

leth
leth
8 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hi Good Day Everyone.I send a mail last Dec.2 at our municipal post office, but the post incharge only took the payment and didn’t gave me form to fill up (i.e.consignment note) .May I ask , when will my mail arrive to its destination country(New Zealand)? And why did the post in change didn’t gave me form to fill out? It’s like unrecorded mail.

Anyone can help me..Please

chasdv
chasdv
10 years ago
Reply to  Paul

Paul;
“keeping it in the family” sounds very much like the Unions “closed shops” we had here in the UK in the 1970’s.

Alan Hettinger
Alan Hettinger
10 years ago

Sent my wife a $40 magicjack which she paid $40 in customs fees to recieve with FedEx. My mother send me a camera back in 2006 which never arrived through USPS.

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Alan Hettinger

Hi Alan – Sorry to hear of the MagicJack fiasco! Not sure if you are aware, but you can buy them locally for about $50.

On your mother’s package, was it registered with tracking?

Don
Don
10 years ago

Bob,
When I use the myusmail service which sends by dhl, I do not pay customs unless they are paying on their side. But when send thru regular usps I pay close to 20% including admin charges. This is in metro Manila. For me, it’s easier to pay for dhl as it arrives faster and without customs, it’s cheaper.

Don
Don
10 years ago
Reply to  Don

Also, I pay p40 to local post office as some service fee for notifying me that I received a package. Then would receive the customs statement for the customs duty.

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Don

Hi Don – In the Davao City main post office there is a sign next to the pickup window that says that P40 is the “Customs Fee.” There are no other charges.

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Don

Hi Don – that shocks me, to be honest. I use MYUSMAIL too and have for years. They indeed send DHL, and if I get a package (not mail, but a package with goods in it), I always pay customs. Through the mail I have never paid more than P40. This experience encompasses hundreds of packages over the years.

brian
brian
10 years ago
Reply to  Don

Hi Bob, I also use ‘mymailusa’ and when i had an item shipped via them (cost $20) whenit arrived they wanted 1,360 pesos “customs fee”..or 1.5 times the value of the item. I told them to keep it !

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  brian

That’s right… you mentioned that to me in an e-mail, and I forgot to reply to that part! I kept trying to remember who had mentioned it to me… since I couldn’t remember, I just wrote this article instead! ha ha

David L Smith
David L Smith
10 years ago

Hi Bob I have been using the phil post office for sending parcels to my wife for 3 years now and never had a problem so far ….whereas in Australia i have had the misfortune of two items going missing( over a long period of time though.) I had heard all sorts of wild stories about the phil postal system, even that other countries will not register your parcels because of the corruption in the postal system in phil. I found that story to be a load of old codswallop as i have insured many items that i have sent… Read more »

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  David L Smith

Hi David – Like you say, I also believe that the horror stories about PhilPost are way overblown. I know that my experience with them has been largely good.

Rich321
10 years ago

In my quest to downsize before moving to the Philippines, I have sold 30 or so items on eBay and have shipped each one via USPS (Post office) “Priority Flat Rate” boxes, 3 day service, with tracking. Not only is the service quick, thru your account in eBay you are able to actually print out the postage/shipping label and do not have to spend time inside the post office at all (just drop the box off as the postage is paid right there at your computer screen thru PayPal.) You can also do all the shipping stuff outside of eBay,… Read more »

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Rich321

Hi Rich – In my case, when I have bought from eBay, many times the sellers have marked the customs form as “gift” on the item, which often makes it no duties at all.

Hudson
Hudson
10 years ago

Hey Bob, My experience with sending a package to the Philippines hasn’t been good. I sent a package to my wife (then girlfriend) in Davao using USPS International Priority mail . I had a tracking label on it so I was able to track it on-line. I sent it out, and it took a day to get from SoCal to San Fransico. The next day It arrived in Manila, where it sat for more than two weeks. A week later it made it to CDO. Another week later it ended up in Davao. Just over four weeks to go from… Read more »

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Hudson

Hi Hudson – The timeline that you give is typical, and I have no problem with it. Take my eBay purchase. If it had been sent FedEX or some other courier service it would have cost an extra $50 for shipping, and also an extra $50 for customs. I would have had it in a week or maybe a bit less. I saved $100 for waiting like 3 extra weeks. That, to me, is no problem at all.

Lenny
Lenny
10 years ago

My son sent me here from the USPS a credit card replacement and he told me he paid only $1.00 to mail it. I thought right away oh no!.. It’s coming on the boat (1 month or longer) it never arrived been 6 months now. When he first told me that I right away called and told my credit card company I had lost the original card and to send me another one please… They did and I made him send me the new card thru fed ex, it arrived in 6 days….Before I have sent many packages to the… Read more »

MindanaoBob
10 years ago
Reply to  Lenny

Hi Lenny – Yeah, for $1 to ship it… well, not very reliable! I can certainly agree with that!

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