Exempting imported books from import duties and the value-added tax can help promote the culture of reading in the country especially among the youth, said Senator Pia Cayetano, chair of the Senate committee on youth, women and family relations.
She lauded the Department of Finance for affirming the duty-free and VAT-exempt status of all imported books whether for commercial or personal use under Department Order No. 57-2011.
The order will change the perception of Filipinos as a “nation of non-readers,” she said, and likened taxing books to “taxing reading as a habit.”
Tax-free, except for some
Under the Florence Agreement initiated by the UNESCO or United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, contracting states agree not to apply customs duties or other charges on “educational, scientific and cultural materials” such as books and newspapers, except on those published “essentially for advertising purposes.”
The Philippines signed the agreement in 1952.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said that importers must first present an endorsement from the revenue office of the DOF certifying that products to be imported fall within the tax-exempt guidelines of the Florence Agreement.
Cayetano, however, called the DOF’s procedures and requirements for the clearance and release of imported books “too stiff.”
She plans to take this up with the DOF to eliminate the need for “cumbersome paperwork.”
Nonetheless, she said that the Finance department's confirmation of the tax-free status of books “will allow more individuals, groups and learning institutions to bring in books to help encourage reading among our youth, broaden their knowledge and help them become productive members of society.”
“Overall, it could open up many opportunities to improve our educational system," she said.