“I'd rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.”
― Lucille Ball

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Importing Household goods and Personal effects

Our container ready to load at the storage location
It took me quite some (Internet) research to find out which procedures apply and what the tax rates are to import my personal stuff into the Philippines.

In this blog you find my experiences, some info and a serie of video shoots of the physical transport. A brief video impression is attached at the end of this blog.

By October 2010 the picture was clear, however that time I had not all procedural details available, as there is relatively few info on the Internet. The most valuable info I found was from a Dutch/Filipino couple who returned to the Philippines from the Netherlands, so basically the same starting position as we had.

Most important what I discovered in my research was that in our case only exemption of importing tax was allowed if I had my 13-A visa, which is for permanent residents, married to a Filipino.

Returning residents (without a 13-A visa or Filipino) are exempted for only 10.000 PHP, but have to pay 50% import tax and 10% VAT. So if the value of your goods is 50.000 Euro, you will pay 30.000 Euro to the Department of Finance or DOF. If this were the case, I would of course never import my personal stuff, but sell it in my home country and buy new stuff here.

There are some important conditions to the regulations for import tax exemption:
  1. The goods must be in your possession for more than 6 months before shipment;
  2. Machinery and motorized vehicles are excluded from exemption;
  3. You need a legalized document (affidavit) stating that all goods are yours;
  4. The exemption can only be granted once in a lifetime;
  5. Shipment must arrive in the Philippines within 60 days from shipper's arrival.
Note: a very useful summary of the procedures and conditions is the following document of IAM movers.

So a careful planning was required. The steps taken were the following:
  1. Deciding how to do the physical transport, e.g. renting a container or buying or just outsource the whole operation, I choose finally to do the latter September 2010, as it is not much more expensive and it saved me a lot of headaches.
  2. Making an overall planning to make sure the container will arrive before the rainy season starts (May/June), as in our case a container carrying truck cannot enter our lot when the soil is sucked with water. 
  3. Starting a bidding process for (door-to-door or any other) transport and selecting the preferred company/ies (I choose Meta Top movers), which I did from October 2010 to January 2011.
  4. Applying for a 13-A visa (from October to January 2011, see my blog 13-A visa).
  5. If required travel to your home country to organize the next 3 points (February to March 2011)
  6. Allow the removal company to visit your storage location (February 2011), and ...
  7. make an inventory list of all individual to be packed collies (boxes and parcels). 
  8. Join the company who is doing the packing and adjust the inventory list as required and receive the Bill of Lading when the container is closed and sealed. 
  9. Use the inventory list as an attachment to the Affidavit of ownership and let it legalize in the Philippines embassy in your home country (March 2011).
  10. Return to your destination (Philippines) and wait for your shipment to arrive (May to April 2011) and contact the agent (Pak-Prime in my case) who is handling the container from the arrival port, contacts customs and organizing land transport, including unloading and returning the container.
  11. Prepare all papers for the Department of Finance to get your exemption from import tax, which was done by my local agent in Manila (May 2011), I had no headaches at all, only one visit to them to deliver my passport, 13-A visa I-card and Affidavit of ownership.
  12. Wait for delivery of the container and unpacking, which was finally scheduled for 3 May 2011.
Of course the whole process wasn't perfect, most notably are the following mistakes/events:
  1. My packing list/inventory was not complete (some items were not on the list and had no number) and I had a gap in the numbering, which was confusing the receiving agent, and perhaps also for DOF.
  2. My packing list was not very descriptive (to prevent questions from customs/DOF), so after receiving the goods, I could not very well localize specific items I wanted to retrieve from the piles of boxes.
  3. There was some miscommunication on the exact delivery address between parties, as a result the costs were higher than fixed price offered to me (I don't know who took finally the extra costs).
  4. The shipping company informed the receiving agent that the ETA was in May and not 15 April as was my information. Hence the agent had to organize the whole process last minute when the container indeed arrived April 15.
  5. The arrival of the container in Manila port was on Friday 15 April, just before Holy week, which has only three working days. Time was limited to process the papers with DOF. So the container could at the earliest be transported the first week after Holy week if a truck was available and processing/inspecting of the container went smooth. However processing with DOF took some more time and non-availability of trucks led to a delay of 2 weeks.
  6. ETA of the container in my place was scheduled for 10 am, but due to a broken truck, finally the truck arrived 4.30 pm, unloading was completed by 7 p.m.
It's a big relieve since the whole process is completed, after more than 5 months of planning and acting. The parties I dealt with, primarily Top Movers and Prime-Pak, did a good job and I can recommend them to everyone who intends to do the similar.


Watch below the video shots I have taken:

A) Nijmegen, the Netherlands, 17 March 2011

1. Positioning the container near to the storage box

2. Loading the container

3. Inside the storage box all loose items are packaged for sea transport

4. Closing the container

5. Sealing the container

6. Transport starts from Nijmegen to Sta. Barbara

B) Seven weeks later, Sta. Barbara, the Philippines, 3 May 2011

1. Container moving through the corn fields

2. Arrival at the gate

3. Backwards through the gate

5. Passing the house and lifting the air cables

6. A little help from my workers to fill a hole

7. Final position is encountered, the driver signals this event

8. Opening the container, all Filipino are anxious watching to see what this Americano is bringing home

9. Unloading is ongoing until darkness sets in


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