January 4, 2012
Sen. Pia: Tax exemption of books to promote love of reading and learning
Senator Pia S. Cayetano has lauded the Department of Finance (DOF) for the issuance of Department Order No. 57-2011, exempting imported books from import duties and the value-added tax (VAT), saying this move will help promote the culture of reading in the country, especially among children and the youth.
Cayetano said Department Order No.57-2011, issued by the DOF last Dec.12, and which was published on a national newspaper last Dec.25, affirms the duty-free and VAT-exempt status of all imported books, whether for commercial or personal use.
"When the government taxes books, regardless of whether it is published locally or abroad, it is equivalent to taxing reading as a habit. This does not make sense because we would effectively be discouraging reading and penalizing an activity that otherwise would have long-term benefits for Filipinos and our future," said Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations.
She said the directive should settle any questions on the tax-free status of imported books, saying that the Department Order is very clear in that it covers all imported books, whether for commercial or personal use, except those published by or for a private commercial enterprise for advertising purposes.
"DOF Order No.57-2011 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 added.
"However, we are still trying to get clarification from the DOF on the procedures for the clearance and release of imported books. For those importing for commercial purposes, there's a long list of requirements under the directive. I am of the opinion that these requirements are too stiff, and I will take this up with the DOF. For those importing for personal purposes, I just want to ensure that there won't be cumbersome paperwork involved."
"The DOF Order should also be disseminated to all BOC and DOF offices and personnel, as well as courier services, to prevent any confusion in its implementation," added Cayetano. She noted that an initial inquiry made by her office with these concerned agencies apparently shows that the order has yet to be disseminated at the ground level.
Cayetano earlier questioned the issue of taxes on imported books with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima at the hearing of the DOF's proposed budget during the deliberations of the 2012 National Budget last December.
"Sadly, we have been characterized as a nation of non-readers. But the government can help change this perception through measures like this, while also supporting local writers and publishers by giving them incentives, and by institutionalizing reading programs in schools and in the communities."
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