Marcelino “Nonoy” Libanan

More tax perks for returning OFWs urged

December 11, 2022 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 346 views

HOUSE Minority Leader Marcelino “Nonoy” Libanan on Sunday sought to raise to $6,000 the aggregate tax-exempt purchase that returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other balikbayans may make at duty-free shops.

Libanan has filed House Bill (HB) No. 6472, which seeks to upgrade the benefits and privileges enjoyed by returning Filipinos under a 33-year-old law that established the Balikbayan Program.

“Once enacted, we expect our measure to encourage a greater number of balikbayans to make their purchases here at home in duty-free shops shortly after arrival, rather than in foreign stores, and help the Philippine economy generate more dollars,” Libanan said.

Balikbayans are currently entitled to make only up to $3,500 in tax-exempt purchases at duty-free shop operated by the Department of Tourism (DoT).

The $3,500 ceiling is split into up to $1,500 worth of discretionary consumer goods, plus up to $2,000 worth of “livelihood tools” under the exclusive “kabuhayan” shopping privilege.

Libanan’s bill would increase to $3,000 the limit for discretionary items, and also raise to $3,000 the separate threshold for livelihood tools ranging from computers and sewing machines to carpentry gadgets and farm implements.

“The upward adjustments in the allowable tax-exempt purchases are needed to account for decades of cumulative price inflation, and to ensure that the shopping privileges remain substantial for the benefit of balikbayans,” Libanan said.

Congress enacted the Balikbayan Program Law in 1989 to encourage Filipinos overseas to come and visit their homeland.

Under the program, balikbayans refer to Filipino citizens who have been out of the country for at least one year, OFWs, or former Filipino citizens and their family members who have been naturalized in a foreign country and who return to the Philippines.

Balikbayans may make their tax-exempt purchases at DOT duty-free shops within 15 days from arrival, or during the Christmas season (from Nov. 15 to Jan. 15 of every year), within 30 days from arrival.

The DOT runs three duty-free shops at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminals 1, 2 and 3.

The department also has five other duty-free shops at Fiestamall in Paranaque City, the Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Kalibo International Airport, and Iloilo International Airport.