31 May2009

No Book Tax…

by Marketman

They say most humans only use 1-2% of their brain capacity. In a nasty moment, I would go further and cut that by another 90%. But in a good mood, I actually wonder what happened to the 98% of the supposed unused capacity in my own brain. In recent years, my memory has become atrocious, and I forget names, appointments, meetings, etc. far more readily than ever before. It’s as though most of the “filing cabinets” in my brain’s storage facility are full or rusted shut. Perhaps they are full of disorganized and excessively trivial factoids and bits of information, but it certainly doesn’t feel like 98% of the space is filled with air, if you know what I mean. Maybe I need the brain equivalent of a de-fragmentation exercise usually performed on computers. When I look at the extensive collection of books on our shelves at home, I consider these the “storehouse” of information that can no longer reside in my brain. I don’t read as much as I used to (and that wasn’t as much as I should have), and lately my book acquisition has been limited to brainless fiction and LOTS and LOTS of cookbooks and other food related materials. I sometimes tackle a more serious business or economics related text. Mrs. MM is a far more voracious reader and often consumes a wider and more erudite selection of authors, passing on to me only the “must-reads” or “shouldn’t miss” books. We encourage the Teen to read as well, and if there is one thing we tried NOT to keep a budget cap on, it was the acquisition of books for leisure, reference, etc. At any rate, what I am trying to get at is that we love our books in the MM household. So the news several weeks ago that our own tax authorities had decided to impose taxes on imported books of all kinds really made our blood boil…

I never got around to writing my rant on the topic, a really STUPID and OUTRAGEOUS step by tax authorities, in my personal opinion, and left on holiday. Forget all the arguments that reading and books are something you want to encourage. Books provide great sparks for the human brain, challenge views and ideas, encourage creative and rational thought, etc… Or that we reversed a decades old view regarding a global treaty which sought to keep books tax free. Thank God that I hear on our return that the President, no less, has decided to put a stop to this tax (though the tax authorities haven’t confirmed this) and there is still some semblance of intelligence left in our government, at least with respect to books. So I don’t need to write the rant. But geez, how close were we as a nation to doing something so patently ridiculous? And yes, don’t think I didn’t mull the book tax over and realize that 90% of the Philippine population can’t afford books, so maybe this could have been simply viewed as a tax on the wealthy, rather than a tax against knowledge and/or intelligence. And yet we have the time to pursue equally ridiculous Senate hearings on the Hayden Kho sex videos, while the book tax issue nor the nuclear power plant issue didn’t receive even a fraction of our senators’ attention? Priorities, priorities, indeed. What’s next? VAT on school tuition? A tax on people with IQ’s over 100? Absurd. Why don’t we tax cars and buses and motorcycles based on the amount of exhaust they produce? Or tax idle landholders so that folks sitting on thousands of hectares of unproductive land are forced to use them more efficiently? Tax families with more than 3 kids or at least make free public school and other services no longer available after the third child? Really, can’t we be a bit more creative about how to raise more revenues? And frankly, that ONLY after the government has figured out how to put an end to the huge proportion of current revenues that are wasted or otherwise lost to corruption? Arrgh. Enough already. I am going to the bookstore to buy a book or two. :)



  1. Franky says:

    Amen sir.

    May 31, 2009 | 8:44 pm


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  3. jong says:

    i still get most of the new books i want to read out of the country because we just are not getting them fast enough here but still, i do agree that these books are the things i also try not to put a cap on so putting a stop to this ridiculous taxation tax thing locally is really good news

    May 31, 2009 | 8:53 pm

  4. larees says:

    I agree MM….that’s such a stupid idea. And that’s putting it mildly.

    May 31, 2009 | 9:24 pm

  5. hungrycurious says:

    “And yet we have the time to pursue equally ridiculous Senate hearings on the Hayden Kho sex videos, while the book tax issue nor the nuclear power plant issue didn’t receive even a fraction of our senators’ attention?”

    really makes one’s blood boil doesn’t it?

    May 31, 2009 | 9:53 pm

  6. Apicio says:

    I know several life-long readers who have been seduced in the last few months by kindle. Taxation of books and other reading materials will most likely just speed up the reading public’s conversion to (electronic) reading devices leaving the collectors, the accumulators of books, the avid bibliophiles to turn their attention eventually to custom printed and hand-bound volumes alone. Check out this bibliothèque imaginaire that lots of money made reality: http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/16-10/ff_walker?currentPage=all

    I am sure the august members of the senate appreciate the publicity value of hearing titillating and scabrous details of certain celebrity’s fantasy. That’s meeting at least half of their duty to the public to provide bread and spectacles. Oh I’m sorry, I was thinking of the late Roman senate.

    May 31, 2009 | 10:11 pm

  7. Gener says:

    The whole day work really chaotic and stressfull knowing that many if not hundreds of unsolved headache is just ahead of you! it seems like having a continues and endless troubles ahead and to difficult to imagine..Sometimes i just simply sit in the corner and smile! And feeling that im DUMB enough to face those troubles. Im idiot to say that i can solve a problem in a day or weeks knowing that more are just on the doorsteps. I cannot resort to “SUICIDE” as im not on that attitude yet and showing still to all that im smart..But deep in me, im tired!Its become that problem is my daily bread, i mean not a problem regarding family but “DUTY”, Being a head of a company is quite easy to see as we always smile and talks in the smartest way, people see us like somebody and a caliber person to consider, we had never have financial difficulties and can afford to aquire whatever we wanted,,,,But honestly for us is “NOT”. Many troubles are indeed suffocating a leader of lets say company,,this days where all were affected a lot with this financial crisis, everything turns upside down, we have to work double of what we normaly does, we have to see if how are we going to cover our previous losses, we have to take care of the huge and even pending salaries, pay banks and take care of your clients not to make them angry..And just to think even the smallest problem like staff fuel stamps! Houws! Its really kills and even too difficult to imagine….What i does sometimes, close my phone,lock my office, take a short nap, then wake-up and smile,,,At that technique, i say that im dumb enough to lie to myself but it works!!!And participating on MARKETMANILA become one of my pastime while sitting and taking a break, still, in my office…And it helps me reduce my stress…..thanks…

    May 31, 2009 | 11:36 pm

  8. ykmd says:

    I agree with you MM, books certainly should not be taxed! They are expensive enough when the importation costs are factored in.

    Apicio, LOL re the Senate! Good way of keeping one’s self in the limelight while avoiding mention of one’s own nefarious escapades…

    Jun 1, 2009 | 1:03 am

  9. kurzhaar says:

    Not familiar with this issue…please clarify, is this a general sales tax on books? Marketman says “own tax authorities had decided to impose taxes on imported books of all kinds”. Is this an import tax, then? Are the majority of books imported?

    Jun 1, 2009 | 4:10 am

  10. ntgerald says:

    Can you imagine the hassle we have to go through? I have ordered several books from Amazon.com, and they have to go through the post office, where the default procedure is to tax them.

    Textbook of Clinical Chemistry was taxed around 3000 – 4000 pesos, and so were other books, even though their titles say “textbook”. The publishers stated a price for the books, and the books were taxed in proportion to their declared price.

    No wonder a lot of libraries in this country pale in comparison to their foreign counterparts. It is especially hard for people like me, who teach here.

    Jun 1, 2009 | 5:51 am

  11. Lou says:

    Agree MM! What’s next, book burning? Well that’s a bit extreme but taxing books is a barbarism. Everyone loses – whether you can afford them or not.

    Jun 1, 2009 | 6:05 am

  12. Marketman says:

    kurzhaar, sorry this was a localized issue. Yes, new taxes imposed on imported books, and most books here are probably imported. And this is against a treaty the Philippines signed and abided by for over 50 years that stated we would not tax importation of books…

    Jun 1, 2009 | 6:55 am

  13. MOMMY says:

    THe imposition of taxes on imported books will definitely encourage photocopying of books by college students. Filipinos today don’t read that much, with the imposition of taxes, that’ll surely turn more people off.

    Jun 1, 2009 | 7:03 am

  14. alicia says:

    I am so with you MM on both the book tax issue and your points on families with more than three children. Things that make my blood boil! This post makes me think of the reproductive health bill that I am deeply in favour …. but this is not my platform to discuss that. How was the trip?

    Jun 1, 2009 | 7:06 am

  15. artisan chocolatier says:

    I totally agree with you MM. I have the same condition with my kids regarding books. They can buy what they want, as long as they read it and discuss with the family their thoughts on it.

    I am disgusted and embarassed with Sec. Teves that he did not act on this (rectifying the error of his department) immediately and instead favored it.

    Moving on….MM, And the winner of our little contest is…?

    Jun 1, 2009 | 8:02 am

  16. James says:

    I have a 40-foot container of donated things coming in for charity. School books make up a good portion of the contents. I am hoping that my Customs broker can convince the low-level Customs officials that the DOF is in error.

    Jun 1, 2009 | 8:31 am

  17. mojito drinker says:

    i totally agree!

    Jun 1, 2009 | 9:11 am

  18. margee says:

    Hi MM,

    As you are in a rant mood, I would like to introduce a friend who is advocating against blatant abuse of power. Please check his video blog:


    Jun 1, 2009 | 9:37 am

  19. sanojmd says:

    I second the motion, MM.. i totally agree with all of these..

    Jun 1, 2009 | 9:43 am

  20. Marnie says:

    I think text books, whether imported or not, should not be taxed. At the very least, there should be a student price (without the tax).
    I haven’t bought a book in ages where I live because a book here costs a lot. It is also taxed at 10% (GST or Goods and Services tax). There are a lot of bargain or 2nd hand book stores. The library in my town is great but the cigarette smell on the pages turns me off reading the book that I end up returning it without reading. Also, chocolate stains on romance novels are off-putting and make me want to constantly wash my hands.
    I hope they don’t push through with the tax if only to encourage more people to read.

    Jun 1, 2009 | 9:47 am

  21. ariel says:

    MM I have the same sentiments that sucks. Does that include book donations?

    Jun 1, 2009 | 10:15 am

  22. Paul says:

    Some excellent, indeed erudite comments here. I am really disturbed by the cost and scarcity of good books. In Rockwell Makati, the National Bookstore in the Power Plant Mall, is one of the few locations I can find books I might find in almost any bookstore abroad anywhere in the English-speaking world. Down the road, in Glorietta, I can only find coffee-table books or pocketbooks. At home, in La Union, I am lucky to find pocketbooks.

    And the cost! Twice what I might pay in the US or the UK.

    Libraries? Thin – with a limited number of books, many quite old. Attending college in the US and graduate school in the UK, I had access to libraries with millions of books (my college library had over 7 million titles, my graduate school library had 4 million – although those 4m were “limited” to political science and economics.)

    Textbooks? (This is most disturbing.) My brother in-law’s calculus textbook was published in the US in 1957. Of course he couldn’t find a copy. Only the instructor had a copy. I found an old, used copy in the Internet, and had it shipped from the US. (Cost – around 3000p.) It was painful to read – complex and antiquated. I ordered a copy of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Calculus” (yes, that’s the title), which explained the topic in simple terms.

    Cost of that book in the US? About 250p. Availability of that book in the Philippines? Zero. Cost to order and import from the US? About 2500p – ten times the cost in the US.

    Chance of catching up to the US in education? (I’ll stop here, and weep for our nation.)

    Jun 1, 2009 | 11:32 am

  23. k. ramos says:

    By the way, MM, does this tax cover ebooks?

    Jun 1, 2009 | 11:35 am

  24. Fred Lopez says:

    Hi MM and MM readers, the Book Tax has been temporarily suspended. I’ve been following the subject since it started,

    Here is an extensive timeline courtesy of MLQ3.


    Read the article that started it all :

    Jun 1, 2009 | 2:03 pm

  25. laine says:

    totally agree with you MM. if you would call for a public demonstration infront of congress to rally against his bill, i could think about joining (though i have never joined one in UP during my enire college life) taxing books is the most stupid idea i have ever heard of so far. had it happened, it’s like going back to the middle ages.

    Jun 1, 2009 | 7:47 pm

  26. angelique says:

    didn’t they say that the “you’re just using 2 to 10% of your brain” was just a myth?

    Jun 1, 2009 | 9:47 pm

  27. corrine says:

    Considering that a lot of individuals and non-profit organizations are doing a lot to encourage reading among the young, this is really bad news. Mr. Fred Lopez, thanks for the info on MLQ3’s blog. Efforts of these people are truly amazing!

    Jun 1, 2009 | 11:34 pm

  28. Vicky Go says:

    If there is anything that would keep me from going back to live/retire in RP – THIS would be it! I cannot live without books! Although these days, I read ebooks downloaded via Whispernet (like a cellphone) to my Kindle2 by amazon.com. But this won’t stop me from buying books!

    I buy hard bound illustrated books for my almost 2-yr old granddaughter to read to/with her.

    And I buy hard copies of books even though I have the e-versions. The only hurdle now is to find space to keep them. I prefer hc to ppb because most of the new/good ones are printed on acid-free paper & last a lot longer than ppb.

    I have trouble getting rid of books, it’s like disposing kids or at the very least good, old friends. So I keep them – right now I have several boxes in storage.

    Evic/Vicky Go

    Jun 2, 2009 | 12:47 am

  29. trattoria il timone says:

    Taxing books in the Phils. is a great diasadvantage to the youth esp.the poor population . MM how did you adjust living in the Phils.- run a business & put up with this goverments horrendous corruption left right & center & the nonsense of this senate is appaling . I dont know how you can take that knowing you can live abroad peacefully. I love my country & it is sad to see the Phils. in the bottom of the totem pole of the most corrupt country in the world who doesnt even care of its youth the future generation – future leaders of the country.

    Jun 2, 2009 | 3:25 am

  30. Mary Lee says:

    Ever consider a Kindle from Amazon? I see more and more people travelling/commuting with them. You can download books, newspapers, etc.

    I’d find it an adjustment not having to turn a page, but it may get around the extra taxes.

    Jun 2, 2009 | 4:43 am

  31. peanut says:

    I so agree with you hungrycurious!Since when has a sex video so important to warrant a senate inquiry?
    How about doing inquiries why a lot of our women OFW get raped by their employers?
    Why school funds are not reaching the needy schools?………


    Jun 2, 2009 | 5:21 am

  32. Ted says:

    “Cost of that book in the US? About 250p. Availability of that book in the Philippines? Zero. Cost to order and import from the US? About 2500p – ten times the cost in the US.” Finally able to get the hard copy of that book,,,PRICELESS (mastercard advertisement) ;-)

    Jun 2, 2009 | 5:31 am

  33. DeeDee says:

    Gosh..that’s why I don’t buy new books. Last week I was rummaging at BOOKSALES for some good finds. I was not disappointed as I got to take home with me 4 paparbacks for P100.00 lang.

    Tojours Provence at P20, On Rue Tatin at P20, Under the Tuscan Sun P40 and Frommer’s Italy at P20.

    But that’s just me, no.

    Jun 2, 2009 | 12:00 pm

  34. DeeDee says:

    ay, “paperbacks” sorry.

    Jun 2, 2009 | 12:01 pm

  35. corrine says:

    I remember with fondness the textbooks we used in Grade School. It’s called the McMillan series from reading & phonics to science. I was inspired to read because of the content and the beautiful photos. Sadly, my kids’ textbook are all paperback and gets holes when they erase something. The layout of the books and illustrations and photos are so bad…I wouldn’t be moved to even turn a page. Everything is cramped…not even a decent space to write the answers for the exercises.

    During my days, we used McMillan and there was an instruction not to write on the books. We used our notebook and exercise sheets. At the end of the school year, we had to erase any pencil marks and remove stains, if any. We used thin papel de liha to do this. We return the books for the next batch of students. It’s economical yet we had very good books. I wonder who is the genius behind all these ugly paperback textbooks in grade school and high school! To think that they haven’t even started taxing imported books!

    Jun 2, 2009 | 12:25 pm

  36. Gin says:

    Oh gosh. I once lived in the PI and I often forget how stressful and frustrating the random laws and rules were to me.

    I suppose the next step is burning books already in the country, eh?

    Why not put a tax on things that people don’t need for day-to-day life? I can think of a few things like alcohol, cigarettes and convenience appliances like automatic foot massages.

    But what is the point of books when you have a big-screen television to watch your soaps and sex scandal news, eh?

    Jun 2, 2009 | 11:58 pm

  37. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Yup MM!! The taxation on books really infuriated me and am glad they lifted that already. I followed that in the news. Ridiculous really—we should be encouraging the youth and general populace to read–it broadens one’s horizons.Only in the Philippines!!Someimes it makes you feel like there’s no future with all these insane laws!!! Hayyyyy….

    Jun 4, 2009 | 7:23 pm

  38. jadedfork says:

    IMO, the only way they could justify a book tax is if the money went directly into upgrading the public school libraries.

    Jun 5, 2009 | 9:40 am

  39. romwell says:

    Jun 10, 2009 | 9:24 am

  40. romwell says:

    book tax lifted please read above for details :)

    Jun 10, 2009 | 9:24 am

  41. hill roberts says:

    HI, MM,
    Are you still in Paris? How about dropping by here in Espana and we can have a great chit-chat.
    Now, on the topic of books…errrr, did I just read about the governor of California Arnold S. saying that books should now be banned in all schools since they cost the taxpayer almost US$300M?
    Hmmm. When was the last time I read a “proper” book? Let me guess. I think a year after Bill Clinton published his thick autobiography. Yeah, that was the last time indeed. The hardbound books cost a fortune and to think one can sit down and read what you want to read while surfing the internet. With trial and error, I discovered you, Mr MM, and boy, what a pity I didn’t discover it soon enough. Still, I have now discovered you and your very informative and interesting sight and I would dearly love to see you rant and rave! Keep the anonymity intact…I like that…oh, the mystery of it all. As for our Senators, Law-makers who love wasting their time on stupid things, useless things, no-priority things, I’d just would like to ask who put them there in the first place? We guys get what we deserve. If we keep putting lousy,lazy, compromising, time-wasting politicians, we are bound to get lousy service from them. Without doubt, come national elections, the same rudimentary procedures will again happen. No need to take my word for it. Still, after having re-acquired my Filipino citizenship, I can now put my hand on my heart and say that there’s one guy who is tried and tested that I would vote for. But hey, things can change. Didn’t Cory Aquino appointed someone to be mayor of Makati? Fast forward to 21 years later: his daughter, his son, his cat and dogs are now part of the new oligarchs. Quite so easly to do it in the Philippines? Why again? Because folks there seem to keep voting for the same kettle of fish. Now, back to books. Let our young generation read books and feed their brains. Mabuhay!

    Jun 10, 2009 | 4:05 pm

  42. hill roberts says:

    Apologies…should read, “…Didn’t Cory Aquino appoint someone…”
    All my comments are spontaneous…Sorry, guys.
    Here’s another one: “…Quite so easy…”
    Thanks, MM for your patience!

    Jun 10, 2009 | 4:10 pm

  43. Marketman says:

    hill, a loaded topic… but short of it is that perhaps some countries aren’t yet truly ready for a full democracy. As you say, we voted these folks in. Or at least a majority of folks voted these folks in. :(

    Jun 10, 2009 | 6:15 pm

  44. hill roberts says:

    Buenas noches desde Espana, MM!
    Democracy???What an overrated, over-used, overloaded word. Democracy impedes economic development. We need strong tactics to move our country forward.
    And, you know what? I just realized that the reason why our country is moving rather “slow” because of staggered democracy is because Filipinos are a repetitious people.
    Just take for example our national language, Tagalog/Pilipino:

    1. pu-mu-pun-ta ?
    2. na no no od
    3.nag pa pa sa la mat
    4.pi na pa no od
    5.pi na pa nga rap
    6.si nu su nod
    7.hi ni hi ra pan
    8.pi na pa yo
    9.na ma man hi kan
    10.tu mu tu long
    Also, we Filipinos like to add more syllables:
    11. mag “dream”
    12.pamantasan – when “school” is quicker to say
    13. drayber when driver is quicker to spell
    14. nag wo worry
    15. napakahaba ang conversation when “long” would suffice
    I Mean, MM, we like going around the bend, or go around for a short cut and our national language says it all.
    The longer we say the things we want, the longer it takes to do the simplest things, right???
    I tell you what, are we a redundant people?
    Democracy? Who needs it? Singapore here I come, Vietnam here I come, China, here I come.
    “Ano ang ga ga win mo do on???
    Hasta luego, y buenas noches.

    Jun 11, 2009 | 4:48 am

  45. atbnorge says:

    Mabuti na lang natigil ang pagpasa ng batas na iyan. Ano ang nais nilang mangyari sa mahihirap, magbasa ng pambalot ng tinapa? It reminded me of the time when I wanted to buy this hardbound Rainer Maria Rilke book at NBS but couldn’t afford it…Marami na nga ang nagugutom na Filipino, gugutumin pati ang isipan?

    Jul 25, 2009 | 11:08 pm


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