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Make it permanent

It was only the proper thing to do ahead of the Christmas holidays, a season of cheer and gift-giving.

Taxing the items is decidedly insensitive, if not uncharitable during this period.

But why make the gesture only temporary? Why not make it permanent so that the giver or sender and the recipient could fully enjoy the privilege year-round?

Only then could it be truly said that Christmas happens every day in this country.

To begin with, the contents of balikbayan boxes are typically non-high-value items such as clothes and shoes (mostly old or used ones), second-hand gadgets or electronic devices, canned  goods, candies and chocolates, soap and other bathroom items, cosmetics and other household products.

Thus the government does not stand to benefit much from them in terms of taxes and duties.
    
Historically tax recovery is at best nominal.
    
Therefore, permanently exempting balikbayan boxes from taxes and duties would not hurt the overall tax collection effort.
    
By turning their attention away from these shipments, customs authorities and personnel can focus on big-ticket items which are highly taxable or dutiable and where the BOC can, therefore, collect more.
    
And so we join the Department of Foreign Affairs in welcoming the decision of the Bureau of Customs to suspend the implementation of the duty and tax-free privileges of consolidated balikbayan boxes, saying this is good news for the hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipinos.
    
"We would like to thank the Bureau of Customs and also the Department of Finance for being sensitive to the needs of our kababayans abroad and for listening to their appeals," Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement.
    
Cayetano said Philippine embassies and consulates general in the United States and other balikbayan box-sending countries abroad have been receiving requests for assistance from members of Filipino communities who would be affected by the orders.
    
On Thursday, customs authorities announced the temporary suspension until March 31, 2018 of Customs Administrative Order 05-2016 and Customs Memorandum Order 04-2017, in response to the appeals of Filipinos abroad who would be affected by the new tax policy.

With the suspension, Filipinos abroad are no longer required to present proofs of purchase for items they place inside balikbayan boxes that they send to their families in the Philippines.
    
Under both orders, Filipino citizens who send balikbayan boxes to the Philippines are also required to submit a photocopy of their Philippine passport to avail of the government's tax exemption.