Update (as of 16 May 2014): the Bureau of Customs has updated their Customs Fee Calculator.
Collectors who buy most of their stuff online fear two only things: 1) lost parcels; and 2) high taxes. Lost parcels are pretty okay on the panic scale, as many online stores offer parcel tracking, and are willing to replace lost items for free.
High taxes, on the other hand, are enough to give nightmares to even the most hardened collectors. That fantastic bargain you spotted at a Japanese toy site or an American eBay shop may not be so great after you factor in taxes. Here are a few tips to save yourself from getting burned.
– Buy only if it is a Special or Limited Edition. The item is likely to increase in value as it gets rarer, so it will cover all costs even if you paid full retail price, shipping, and taxes for it.
– Buy only if the item cannot be found in Manila and neighboring destinations such as Hong Kong and Singapore (where you can ask friends or family on holiday to buy it for you). If you don’t buy it now, chances are you will never find it again (or at least, in the near future).
– Buy only if the item has been marked down by at least 40%. This way, the amount discounted from the purchase can go towards paying your customs fees, and you still get a bit of savings.
Do Not Buy
– Do not buy if your projected savings will be less than PhP 500 compared to retail prices in Manila. The taxes will put you over the top by double the amount, so your PhP 500 savings will turn into a PhP 1000 loss due to customs fees.
To project your possible customs fees, here is a sample calculation: [(Total USD value of parcel) x (10% Customs Dues)] + [(Total USD value of parcel) x (12% VAT)] + [PhP 750 Customs Miscellaneous Fees] + [PhP 40 Philpost Handling Fee]. They may also charge a storage fee of PhP 100 per day if your parcel is not picked up right away.
– Do not buy if the item is too big (and by “too big”, I mean larger than approximately 12 in x 12 in x 12 in). Large parcels look attractive to customs officials, so they are more likely to keep it on hold until you can “bail” your parcel out.
– Do not buy if your parcel can only be shipped via courier (FedEx, DHL, etc.). The courier service will automatically charge you for customs and hold your parcel until you are able to pay up, unlike EMS, SAL, or registered mail where there is a 50-50 chance that the parcel will reach you directly without being taxed.
Thanks to Tabs and Mickey at our customs thread for their input on their most recent EMS experiences.