Bureau of Revenue Madness

Back in 2014 I did the paperwork to import into the U.S. our first container of product from my shop in the Philippines.   U.S. Customs, easy as pie, find a broker, pay them a few hundred in fees and deposits, fill out a two page form that took a half hour at most.  Done…..

Export permits from the Philippines?  At least fifty times more work and expense but three months got it done.  Time for applying for the import permit so we could bring in supplies, machines, and materials to put more people to work.  How hard can it be?

Well…about a year later I still can’t tell you because we still aren’t done.

We are at the point of getting the BIR ICC, basically a process showing you are legit, are paying taxes, and are responsible.  Probably fifty requirements in all, reports, copies of leases, tax returns, you name it and they ask for it.  The worst is getting the BIR to sign off, eight departments, saying that you don’t owe any money or have any missing reports.   Used to be the BIR’s responsibility to get those eight signatures but they were refusing to process the paperwork so the legislature dumped the responsibility on the applicant a year or so back as the regional managers couldn’t get their own department heads to do the paperwork. Read …. opportunity for bribes.

Got everything done on the BIR ICC after about ten months, some things had to be redone as their expiration date was reached before the last requirement was completed.  Regional office signs off on everything,  all money paid, all reports showing as received, all requirements in order, dozens of papers are stamped, fees paid, documentary stamps purchased and glued on with elmers glue and off to Manila to deliver the two inch thick stack of documents, in triplicate of course.

And we hit a brick wall.   Income tax return missing for 2015 along with the so called Alpha List (list of employees you paid taxes on), not showing up in the national BIR computer system.  WTF… we had copies with us, all duly filed in mid January months before the April 15th deadline by our CPA.

Back to the provincial office where everything appears online and in order.  Turns out the regional office’s internet connection to the national BIR computer system has been down for months and nothing that has been filed in that time frame shows up on the national BIR computer system.   Better part of three days before they would admit it, blamed it on the need to “clean” the system after the April 15th rush of ITR being filed.

No problem, just pay for three sets of certified true copies of the ITR and Alpha list and head back to Manila.  Sure, if they can find any of the documents.   But their data base shows everything was filed, surely we can bring copies of everything and have them stamped certified true copies?


Not only no, but hell no.   We have to wait until they are able to find the original filing and go through an audit despite the same idiot officers signing off on the same paperwork ten days earlier.

Now the amazing thing is that the idiots knew they sent us to Manila knowing that their files and the national BIR files don’t match and won’t match until they fix the internet cable.  Knowing that we will return and ask for certified true copies of the missing documents, documents that they know are filed and in good order yet they take the application fee and send us on our way, fat, dumb, and happy.

The lesson is that when you file anything turn around and get multiple copies certified true and hang onto them till you get past the next regulator hump.  Plan on at least three trips if you have a CPA helping you and everything is in exact order.  Some s***head up the chain is going to slam on the brakes and generate more work and more expense for the regional office and for your accountant, all in the idea of creating jobs.


Published in Bureaucracy


  1. Profile gravatar of Angeleyes

    One time, when I first started travelling to the Phils, I had a brilliant idea to import a juice making machine and a bottling machine. To buy the machines from China are about 80k USD and while at the time I thought it was a good idea my Lord I now don’t dare to think what a hell ride customs would give me now I understand a little better how it works. There are a couple of distributors where my wife is from who told me they could sell thousands of bottles a day. In hindsight I have seen and learnt it would of been an absolute disaster from importing the machines to the distributors to importing bottles and ingredients to renting a factory, the list just goes on and on; too much corruption and bullshit to entertain that idea.
    Another idea was to import fireproof plywood, I figured there is a massive market for it there with the squatter housing. Again I don’t dare to think of the bullshit I would go through to import and distribute that. I am amazed how the corruption, lying, cheating, scamming, stealing attitude is ingrained into almost every single person over there, it is a pity.

    1. Profile gravatar of Johnny

      “I am amazed how the corruption, lying, cheating, scamming, stealing attitude is ingrained into almost every single person over there”
      – I think you are mistaken @angeleyes. Filipinos constantly say they want change and they are tired of all the corruption. Hahaha!! Except when it is their turn to take advantage.

    2. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
      Idiotocracy Post author

      So true Angeleyes. We looked into importing the equipment we needed to set things up in a productive manner and found out that without a import permit you need to find someone with an import permit that will be willing to let you piggyback a shipment through your broker. It would have cost as much to get the 20′ container through Customs as it cost to purchase everything in China so we would up purchasing substandard equipment locally.

      The system is set up to limit investment and the ability to import on purpose, in order to protect the local businesses and keep the labor market starved of jobs which keeps labor rates super low and allows the employers to treat the employees any way they wish.

      1. Profile gravatar of Angeleyes

        “in order to protect the local businesses”. Another great idea I thought I had was to open some franchises via San Migul corporation. I had a plan to open 2 or 3 Kambal Pendersal stores in my wifes area. It all looked good on paper and if one lives a frugal lifestyle it would work. The problem I could not get out of my head though; If I do that what about the other local bakeries? Say I took their business away from them then the fear was one of them would shoot me. Say some other bakery is running well and the owners make a good living, mortgage, cars, private schools for their kids etc then this Kano rocks up and opens a Kambal Pendersal and they cant make their mortgage payments, Id say I would be on a hit list. Ditched that idea pretty quickly.

        1. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
          Idiotocracy Post author

          Never complete with the locals. Export everything and try to find a product that has limited local value so things don’t fly out the back door. Make it where the labor is cheap and ship it to where you can get the most money for the product. If you do sell locally make it something that they can’t produce, with imported materials or requiring special machines to produce. They will try to compete anyway and undercut your price. But jealously will set in anyway even if they can’t compete but with export they never see the money. Few of your workers will be able to understand that you are making money as they see all the expenses and won’t be able to do the math on what you are exporting. The other advantage is that you can pretty much set your own transfer price as long as you eke out a small profit for the tax man. The wogs aren’t sharp enough to figure out you are doing well on the deal if you poor mouth a lot.

    3. Profile gravatar of Don Quixote
      Don Quixote

      Angel Eyes,
      I recently moved from the SBFZ into Barretto frequent posts in the past probably set out my reasons, but the main thing was I was really sick to fucking death of the morons running the place.
      So I had a list of everything we took onto the Base 5 years ago , signed in and stamped. Plus I had a list and the receipts of everything I had purchased since and was taking off the base, nothing was actually purchased on the base duty free, as their duty free is more expensive than non duty free in Olongapo .
      I had to get a clearance from the Base and a letter stamped that I owed them no money, then I had to get a total take out clearance from another department, that required an inspection, but as they had no car I had to go and pick up the inspector and take him back. OK all done I think, after two truck loads have left with no trouble, the third load was stopped at the gate and little Hitler Customs official made his presence felt, BUT SIR YOU NEED A CUSTOMS CLEARANCE, why this is the third truck load, time was 1715 , He sent me to the finance department where I was supposed to get my clearance and pay someone something or so it seemed.
      The Cunning shit knew they had all stopped work at 1700. Well sir you will have to leave the truck in our garage and take it out tomorrow, FAT CHANCE.
      After I was rescued by the child bride who came looking for me before I got jailed for snotting the self important prick. We got the Head man to return to work, HE WAS TRULY PLEASED WITH THE SELF IMPORTANT PRICK.
      When we opened up the truck and he saw the old furniture and out door stuff including pot plants and orchids he was well and truly pissed.
      So three hours late we finally got our truck off the base, NO MONEY CHANGED HANDS.
      The self important prick was on the gate for the next three days, it seemed like he was on a 24 hours shift it did not matter what time I drove through he was working.

      1. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
        Idiotocracy Post author

        Had you left the truck they would have hit you with storage fees. I know one company that had a delivery come in on a holiday weekend so they waited till Monday to go down to process the shipment out. 50,000 pesos in storage fees for Saturday and Sunday. Keep in mind that customs station is open 24/7.

        1. Profile gravatar of Don Quixote
          Don Quixote

          Absolutely they were there in numbers too, I should have been able to have any number of people help me, BUT SIR our cashier goes home at 1700 you will have to wait until tomorrow.
          Despite the 20 or so staff there was allegedly NO ONE who could authorize us to take our old furniture and plants off the base. NO CASHIER WAS REQUIRED
          When the Boss man arrived it took no more than 5 min for him to decide what his staff will never permit.
          Why you need a customs clearance for 20 year old couch is beyond even my thinking, BUT SIR do you have a receipt.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is over twenty years old you idiot who keeps a receipt for twenty fucking years and just by the way, where do you make couches on the base in case I need one in the future, BUT SIR we don’t have any furniture manufacturers like that. So obviously the duty has been paid somewhere sometime as it could not be manufactured anywhere on the Base.
          All they were after was a payout, but I wasn’t giving them jack shit. I would have dumped all the old shit on the ground and told them to fucking keep it, if the child bride hadnt arrived like the lone ranger when she did.

          1. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
            Idiotocracy Post author

            If another soul handled the money in that department then both of them would have the green light to steal and you would wind up going down to a bank to deposit the fees. And none of these fuckers are bright enough to make a correct decision on their own, they might get fired for doing something stupid, so they refuse to make a decision. I’ve learned that sometimes it is a bribe attempt and sometime it is shear dumb fuckery run rampant.

  2. Profile gravatar of Johnny

    I think the issue is there are so many rules, changes, and just for “Shits and giggles” tasks to perform to the point they are not even sure what needs to be done. It’s honestly like watching a bunch of neanderthals play administrators. Of course, much of this revolves around the fact they want bribes and no department can trust each other, so the burden falls to the person simply trying to get something done.
    This is small compared to your story, but I needed some paperwork from the local courthouse. At first they said, they did not have it, but aha!! They did not know I had a friend who worked in the building at another office. So he comes down, chats with them in Tagalog, then 15 minutes later my documents are found!!
    Now, the copies I need must be certified cause they its worthless unless it has that “Certified True Copy” stamp on it and some BS stickers on it as well. So, I request the paperwork and they tell me to pay. Of course, I need to drive across town to pay the BIR for the stamps and get the reciept, then go back to the courthouse to get the paperwork and glue the stamps on it, which cost me about 2 hours of time. All this for about 200 pesos. Why? When I asked them, they said money was being lost so the BIR now controls the payments of the courthouse. It turns out the courthouse could not even trust their own employees not to steal.

    1. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
      Idiotocracy Post author

      “I think the issue is there are so many rules, changes, and just for “Shits and giggles” tasks to perform to the point they are not even sure what needs to be done”

      So true but your next sentence nails it, the incredibly onerous rules are mostly because they can’t trust their own employees not to sell favors, steal the government blind, or attempt to obtain bribes from the customers.

      And it is hard not to burst out laughing when the dolts bring out the small bottle of Elmers white glue to glue those document stamps on the papers. How much more would it cost to print a tiny sticker on peel and stick stock?

      The gf has our multicab plastered with Duerte (sp?) bumper stickers, adamant that what is needed is a strong man that will shoot a few government officials to straighten things out. She may be right, when the will of the people is so low that a corrupt government like this exists perhaps they do need a strong man Hitler kind of guy.

      1. Profile gravatar of Johnny

        Yeah, when I first saw them use the Elmer’s glue, I laughed. It waslike watching an adult do a grade school project,,,, in a government office no less.

        The system is set up (by stupidity and corrupt consequences) so only those with connections can get things done. This is always government officials, cronies, or Chinese business owners (who’ve mastered the art of paying bribes ).

  3. Profile gravatar of Mindanao

    I would have liked to open a business there – the labor is so incredibly cheap. We looked into sewing and furniture production. The data, just on manufacturing and shipping, looked great! But it is stories like this that make it too much of a nightmare to even consider. The uncertainty especially – just not knowing what the bureaucracy has in store for you with the “can’t get there from here” roadblocks.

    The place would explode economically if that is all you had to worry about. I understand why the call center and email answering works. You don’t import materials or export a product.

    What kind of person sends you to Manila knowing the BIR files do not match? A person of extremely bad character. That’s what you are dealing with in the Philippines. Bad character.

  4. Profile gravatar of Johnny

    A friend of mine was setting up a large scale business. The barangay captain (worthless, bottom-feeding position of all Philippines politics) was giving him a Hard time. Then the city engineer wanted a bribe if ₱50,000. He was at his wits end.
    He finally asked if id be willing to help break the city engineers legs with him. He knew where the guy liked to drink and was about to find out where he lived. Of course I said, “fuck yes, just make sure I don’t get carried away and kill the guy”. My friend had some connections who came through.theu got the bribe down to ₱3000. The beating was canceled, much to my disappointment.

  5. Profile gravatar of Angeleyes

    When I holidayed in the Phils once I stayed at this big fancy house owned by an American. He had been in the Phils 15 years, arrived backpacking and never went home. He had just finished building his house and had spent over 2 million USD and was about to put in a massive swimming pool. HIs gig; he had a call centre. I got really fixated on a call centre for quite a while and feel I know enough to be able to open one. Only problem is Flips are so f-ing stupid. Does anyone here have any info on opening a call centre? With so many morons around how on earth is it possible? Are the educated pones different (you have to have a degree to work in one) I like the idea and have a plan but how does it work with staff? At first I never thought of this but now it is the biggest challenge and the one thing that is putting me off and holding me back.

    1. Profile gravatar of Mindanao

      With a call center you can program a set of questions, much like a survey, where each answer is a branch in a logic tree. You don’t even need the human – this can be programmed online. But for computer illiterate the questions would look like –

      1) Is your power turned on? No -> Turn on power. Yes -> Proceed to Question 2.
      2) Is your modem showing “internet”? No -> Reboot Modem. Yes-> Proceed to Question 3. Etc.

      That’s why call center tech help can be so infuriating. If you start by telling them the computer is plugged in and the internet is on, they’re still going to ask you if the computer is turned on and if the modem is showing internet. All they are doing is reading from a screen and entering answers. This is how it works for the ones I know about. A ten year old can handle the job.

    2. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
      Idiotocracy Post author

      No, the “educated” ones are no different. I’ve hired some of them and they are actually worse than the working class poor. Super sense of entitlement, look down upon anyone that doesn’t have a college degree and that includes the kano owner of the business, even with a so called BA in Business they know literally nothing of how their system works so they are useless in setting up government permits or tax accounts. Just as stupid, just as lacking in common sense, but with a much higher opinion of themselves. Huge chip on their shoulders so you have to be careful with what you write or say. Too much explanation is probably worse than not enough detail as they can’t follow detailed instructions. You are better doing like the logic tree above and feeding them just what they need to know for the immediate task at hand rather than overloading them with a list of ten things that need done.

      The schoolmates are thick and remain in touch after they get out of school. It isn’t long after you hire one of them that they start complaining about their work load or their pay. Once I had one bitch about her pay, around 12K plus regular employment with full benefits, said her school mates said it was too low. A few days later I asked it about the schoolmates she graduated with that had the same business degree, what they did. Mostly working in supermarkets or retail at the mall in 555 jobs, salary range from 200 to 260 pesos per day for an 11 hour shift six days a week. So I did the math for her, the best paid one made about half of what she did for an eight hour day, no benefits, fired after 5 months, might get to come back once or twice before having to look for other work. So that quieted the idiot down for a few months but it remained convinced it was being taken advantage of.

      You are far better off hiring non college graduates and paying them the mandated minimum wage of 95 cents per hour. That is around a third more than they can earn working for the Chinese flips or Korean flips that own most of the businesses. Work pamily if you are tough enough to keep them in line, explain that if one screws up then no more pamily will be hired. Put them on probation for the first six months and think hard before you keep on on past about five months. Keep a record of any slip ups, late to work days, or issues and put them on notice by writing them up. Their pride will make them quit if you keep the pressure on them.

      When you find a good one (same rules as in the U.S., hire slow and fire fast) the benefits are going to cost you a little more than you think. Basic benefits are around 20%, but add 13th month pay, another month pay for the holidays, SIL, single parent leave, and so on. Careful to avoid married ones if possible, maternity leave can be two to three months pay, you pay it in advance of the birth and can recover it from the SSS if the employee is covered by the benefit. DOLE is a bitch to deal with so constantly check for wage rate increases and have employees sign full time cards along with a pay receipt.

      Above all, remember that they have armed guards everywhere for a reason and they also search the employee when they leave the workplace . Pamily might not steal you blind if you chose the right girl and treat them well but don’t count on it. Better to inventory everything and trust no one or no process because they will try shit that you would think no intelligent person would be stupid enough to try to get away with.

      1. Profile gravatar of Tacitus

        Agreed. The so-called educated flipboons are worse in many ways and in many cases more of a danger to others and society. If they were properly educated within an education system (whose standards aren’t laughable at best), it might be different. But even if their education was sufficient, it’s NECESSARY for their culture and society to value intelligence and reasoning and have the moral wisdom to use knowledge beneficially, which it clearly does not. The truth is we’re dealing with people who do not have the most basic, rudimentary, mental capability to logically distinguish anecdotal information from fact let alone have the honesty for rational discourse, scientific literacy for peer review, nor the constitution to put aside their pride when the evidence contradicts their cognition. Until they admit and realize how fundamentally flawed their paradigms of thinking are on a group level of society and then on an individual level, there’s no point in arguing with stupid no matter what college they went to on the short bus or how “edumacated” they claim to be.

    1. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
      Idiotocracy Post author

      Uh, no, things are no different there either. I’m on a PEZA zone and yes you escape the high taxes, paying 5% of any gross profit over materials, direct, labor, direct supplies, and direct overhead but you still have to deal with the same idiot departments and go outside the zone to accomplish all the permits and licenses. On some zones they have One Stop Processing Centers sold as a place to go to take care of everything you need, BIR, SSS, Philhealth, DOLE, but when you show up they have a part time representative shuffling papers and they are capable of doing absolutely nothing except to refer you to the big office outside the zone. A blatant lie in the marketing of the zones, claiming that it is easy to set up and all done by motivated people.

      After all, how are they going to squeeze you for “something for the boys” if you get your paperwork processed efficiently and inside the zone?

  6. Profile gravatar of Don Quixote
    Don Quixote

    Living and working in a PEZA Zone is worthless advantage, everything is cheaper elsewhere, idiots think the duty free store there are bargains, but not a chance, they use the false advertising just to mark up their profit.
    We have a Savers Store in Olongapo and on the SBFZ indeed they are owned by the same franchise and even swap staff. Is it cheaper on the base, NOPE.
    I am hunting for three AC units at present and trust me the base is more expensive everywhere than outside. I have even been to the LG and Carrier distributors in the SBFZ, nope more expensive.
    For the fucking life of me I cannot see why anyone would actually invest in one of those PEZA zones.
    Even our water was more expensive even though we paid no VAT our water bill went up 100% when we moved onto the base, our power bill went up 75% with exactly the same electrical appliances. They screw you to death.
    Then they advertise how great they are, the SBFZ has been putting up signs everywhere about how they are the best Free-port in Asia. Fuck me there must be some shit ones out there.

    1. Profile gravatar of Idiotocracy
      Idiotocracy Post author

      Spot on, there are some advantages, you are more secure from scammers and people trying to muscle in on your operation,i.e., force a partnership with you or a neighbor claiming something silly like your machines lowered the voltage and damaged their appliances and yes both of these were tried on us before we moved. There is no strikes allowed, less theft, we don’t have to keep a night watchman any more.

      But like DQ said they rape you on everything. Our electric bill was down to around 1000 pesos off the zone after we caught the neighbors tapping in (previous manager allowed them, was selling electricity to them on the sly) but our bill at the zone has an automatic 5000 peso charge for “demand charges”. Now we run a two horse compressor, might kick on every ten minutes, and normal wood working machinery. Most of the sheet metal equipment is manual. Might use 1000 pesos per month in actual power according to the meter.

      Mandatory trash service, runs around 1200 per month, off the zone your help will sort out recyclables and sell to the collectors, might earn a few hundred pesos a month that they use for the merienda fund. Neighbors carried off the wood scraps for cooking if you stacked it outside, anything left could be burned in the back once a month.

      Zero contact with the DOLE or any other government agency other than the annual permit dog and pony show. But on the zone, they inundate you because they know you can afford to pay fines and fees.

      If you are exporting and have enough profit and enough money to invest in the B.S. and need to import things then the PEZA zones make sense. If you are making a profit from a business you do save a lot of income tax but you wind up having to report quarterly to the Zone along with your regular BIR tax returns and reports. Its safe but it puts you in the bulls eye and like DQ says nothing is cheaper.

  7. Profile gravatar of Don Quixote
    Don Quixote

    I forgot about fucking that, we paid 55 peso a month for 2 garbage pick ups a week and get a wheelie bin in Olongapo, when we moved to the base this jumped to 400 peso a month for garbage removal and no wheelie bin , then about two years ago they introduced a Common Usage Service Fee to pay for the garbage the street lights and the Police who aren’t really Police but that’s another story, now the fee is 1200 peso a month.
    The garbage service has gone to shit we are lucky if they pick anything up that can not be recycled and if we see them twice a week we are lucky, I have noticed waste in the street for MONTHS at a time , really MONTHS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    After Yolanda went through the Visayahs no where near us, they used that excuse for 3 months NOT TO PICK UP GREEN WASTE, now the reason we have green waste is we are not permitted to touch the trees , or burn the waste , and are told to put it out for them to pick up, but no recyclable materials there so the lazy pricks never pick it up. I believe I had palm fronds put out for over 6 months and they were still piled up on the side of the road when we had enough and moved out.
    OK they the Police are really Customs Agents and not Police they are not permitted to Investigate and Crime, they have A TRO against the Base by the Dept. of Justice to stop them advertising the fact they are Police.
    But they wear Police uniforms still and act as Policemen and traffic enforcers disregarding the TRO