Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Government is Taxing Me for Learning Japanese

According to the 1950 Florence Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials that the Philippines signed in August 7, 1979, imported educational and cultural books should be exempt from Customs Duties, although a limited amount for the services they (Customs) render could be applied. Of course this is subject to interpretation, and it appears that the Bureau of Customs has its own, to the tune of 2,000 pesos for a set of books worth 5,500.

I was supposed to order a complete set of Minna No Nihongo from the Nihongo Center Foundation in Makati, except they would not let me buy them because I am not enrolled at their institution. I think that is bullshit since they are supposed to be promoting the Japanese language. How are they to do that if they are monopolizing the resources? They are not even the publisher of those books. Moving on, I just decided to purchase online and found another textbook series: Genki.

The said books could be ordered from Amazon Japan. The textbook costs 3,000 Yen (around 1,650 pesos), the workbook 1,500 Yen (825 pesos), and the CDs 2,400 Yen (1,320 pesos). Having bought course books and CDs before, I know that these prices are reasonable. However, buying online entails extra charges and it took me quite a while to decide to go on with it and pay the 2,800 Yen (1,540 pesos) charge for the freight. In return, I get to receive my order after three to five days. Fair enough. All in all I spent around 9,700 Yen (5,400 pesos if you use an overestimate of PhP0.55 = Y1.00).

I placed the order online last December 23 and got the confirmation of order on Christmas Eve. The estimated day of arrival was December 27, which was declared a holiday in the country this year. The security guard at the lobby gave me a DHL notice December 28. I found it peculiar that I did not receive the goods in front of my door. Does DHL not offer door-to-door courier service? What surprised me though were the:

Billing Details:
1,640 – CUSTOMS CHARGES
280.0 – DUTY HANDLING FEE
33.60 – INFORMAL ENTRY DECLARATION
265.0 – DOCUMENTARY STAMPS

Okay. Amazon Japan did say that I would be responsible for the Customs Duties to be paid upon arrival of the package here in Manila. I suppose the 2,800 Yen freight charge was just for the shipping. But 2,182.60 pesos tax overall? That is almost half the total I already paid. In fact, that is more than half the price of the goods if you do not include the shipping cost. So it appears that I am being taxed for learning a foreign language. Damn.

I guess this is the Philippine Government’s gift for me this Christmas. How do they even compute that? What’s funny is I just received my income tax refund, which is not even double the amount of this Customs Tax shit. And now I have to give it back to them. They do have a way of making the money go ‘round, ha? Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Internal Revenue! You just have to love the good-natured and oh so pure-intentioned people in those government departments. Thanks for the Christmas gift, guys!

After doing some research in the Internet I found some people who have also experienced the same fate ordering items online. I even found one case wherein the person also ordered from Amazon Japan, had the same total amount as I had, and got charged more than I was. His package only contained three books and no CDs. He did not pay for the tax and said that Amazon Japan was to refund him of the charges. I do not have that luxury, unfortunately. I need the books this January, and credit card refunds are simply migraine-inducing to say the least. However, I did find some sort of formula.

It says Customs Charges should be around 10% of the total declared amount, depending on the item. Given that, mine should have been around 500 pesos. Add the Duty Handling Fee (280 pesos), Informal Entry Declaration (33.60 pesos, WTF is this?), and Customs Documentary Stamps (265 pesos), all in all that would be around 1,080 pesos. After this you get the VAT by adding that amount to the total declared and getting 12% of it, which is around 770 pesos. Add both and you get 1,850 pesos, which is 300 pesos less than the amount stated in the billing details. Well, it is the Holiday season indeed. Of course all of this is based on the assumption that books should be taxed when they really should not be. This is the cost of wanting to enrich oneself as a person in this country, my friends. Should I not be just paying minimal Customs Fees? Even if you tax the CDs, they just cost 1,320 pesos. Levy a bloated 30% tax on that and you pay less than 500.

I have ordered books online before, all of which I retrieved from the Makati Post Office. I was charged only 35 - 40 pesos every time. This is my first transaction via DHL. Since the 2,000+ peso charge is not really a charge for the freight, but rather for Customs Duty, why was I charged only 40 pesos at the Post Office before? I also ordered three books one time which also came with CDs. What is the difference then? DHL? The 2,800 Yen charge, I believe, was already theirs. 40 pesos vs. 2,182.60 pesos, very big a difference right there. You do not need a 1.0 in Algebra to figure out that something is amiss.

So what is my point? The point is to warn you. If ever you buy stuff online you are probably better off having it delivered to the post office if you have the luxury of time. There is no assurance that they are reptile-free there, but based on personal experience I would choose them over this anytime. It is just frustrating that we have to experience things like this, as if being penalized for retrieving something that is actually ours since we already paid for it. If people who have the means are taken advantage of just like this by the government, imagine what happens to those who just totally rely on them.

Paging PNoy. Ito ba ang TUWID NA DAAN? Kasi baluktot ang pagkakaaninag ko e. Parang zigzag lang na puno ng mga buwayang makakapal ang mukha at kaliskis. Ang sarap nilang gawing sapatos at wallet na pang export. Kaya lang pag ginawa ko yun malamang i-tax na naman nila ako ng bongga ‘no? Ang babait nila, sana kunin na ni Lord.

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