book burning

Book burning by Nazis in 1933

Check this message published by PDI last Friday:

On May 29 one reader of my blog, Dondi Imperial, was assessed customs fees for three books he ordered from abroad. In early June he was told to apply for a customs exemption if he didn’t want to pay the assessed taxes. Things dragged on in the following manner:

“My dad volunteered to go to the DOF to apply for the exemption. The first time he went, they said to come back another day because the person who signs these documents was not there. When he told me of this, I told him that maybe it was better for me to just pay whatever the customs official was charging me but he refused and went back another time. They made him wait for over half a day and on top of that charged him P200 for what the receipt says is ‘FF’ (who knows what that is?). He had to photocopy a few documents and asked where the machine was. The person he asked had someone take him to the photocopier and said, ‘Ikaw na bahala sa kanya.’ The photocopier was about 20 feet away.

“In the end with the certificates from the DOF in hand the post office still charged a total of P515: BIR taxes-P15; Proceeds-Auction Sale (the letters IPF are written beside this line)-P250; Miscellaneous (the letters CDS are written beside this line)- P250

“So P500 + P200 + over a day and a half of my dad’s time + the cost of gasoline for two drives both ways from Parañaque to the DOF.”

And a comment posted by a friend who sent books to her husband from Ireland:

Nabiktima na din ako/Paul neto e (my book but Paul had to claim it). He refused to pay the tax and told the post office na they can keep the book na lang. Hiningan na lang sya ng whatever na mabibigay nyang pera. (The people at the post office asked him for whatever amount he could give [just so they could dispose the book].)

When I dropped by the Makati Post Office to claim a parcel the other day, a guy next to me who was picking up three books was asked to cough up P1,200. He said he thought that there was no taxation on books anymore, but the man in charge of disposing parcels told him the order from Malacanang to stop taxation on books had been lifted and gave him a copy of the new order, where Arroyo yet again reneged on her word, passed in June. A long discussion over the phone ensued because it turned out that the guy was only picking up the books for someone else.

Based on these examples and my experiences, here are a number of tips:

  1. Haggle. Just because the people at the counter told you to pay thousands of pesos on personal items that family members or friends from abroad sent you doesn’t mean that you have to cough up the same amount. Ninety percent of the time, the post office people give you “guesstimates” of the values of your parcel, so why line their pockets? Tell them you don’t have the money (because most likely, you really don’t). Tell them the items in the parcel are not new.
  2. Threaten. Tell them they could shove the books up their sorry a–es. They are not interested in books, and keeping the tomes in the warehouse is a lot of hassle for these people, so chances are they will ask you to pay whatever amount you are willing to give just so they could dispose those worthless things that take a lot of space.
  3. Look humble. There is an advantage in dropping by the PO looking like you traveled all the way from the far corners of Metro Manila on foot. I managed to look harassed the other day. The man on the counter gave just one glance and immediately disposed my parcel after asking for a measly 35-peso handling fee for the stuff that cost P3,000+. Read: No effing taxes. On the other hand, the guy beside me looked like he had just stepped out of a spa. Sure, looks matters, but in this example, there is a bonus for looking like you had camped out for days to get a spot in the audience section of a Wowowee anniversary show. A fashionista friend picked up a pair of lingerie worth P1,600 one time and she was asked to pay up P800. No receipt was given.
  4. Capture. If the person on the counter tells you to pay suspiciously too much and/or unnecessary dues on your parcels, especially books, tell them to smile for the camera phone because if it turns out that they are lying, their faces will be all over the blogs, social networks, and Twitpics.

But the real issue is: The smarty pants among us have to pay taxes on books because the Department of Finance is scrounging for extra cash, while some twat in the palace makes toma in New York on $500-per-bottle wines. Amp!