#AskTheTaxWhiz: An open letter to taxpaying voters
Dear Mr. Tax Whiz,
Many of us taxpayers are still undecided on our choice for president. If we follow the social media and election polls, Duterte will be our next president. How do you feel about that? Why do you think many Filipinos are rallying behind him despite his "bad guy" image and his dissenting position in lowering our income tax?
Can you give us a list of candidates for other positions who are pushing for genuine tax reform? Do you think it is still possible to cut our taxes?
What can we do? Who should we vote for to make sure a genuine and comprehensive tax reform will be realized under the next administration?
Hoping and praying for your enlightenment.
Dear Desperate Voter,
Honestly, I have been wanting to write about the position of all presidential candidates on tax reform. You've asked a brave question on the Duterte phenomenon, so let me answer your questions through an open letter to all taxpayers:
Will your president prioritize tax reform? Do you expect him to put food on your table or give you a job even if you don't want to work? Are you voting for a leader or a superhero to save the day?
I feel the desperation. I sense hopelessness.
Everybody clamors for change, but nobody wants to change. (READ: Tax cuts as campaign promise? Overhaul tax system, economists say)
We want action, but we don’t act.
Here we go again. We will vote for somebody who we think can change our country and our government to make life easy for us. We want a president who will end corruption, while we continue to bribe Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) examiners. We want a president to improve traffic condition, while we disregard traffic rules. How can we be too stubborn?
We always look for someone to blame or to be responsible for our lack of discipline, idleness or failures. When will we realize that even if we elect Pope Francis, he cannot change us as a nation or as a people? Change has to begin with each one of us. Change has to begin with you and me.
We need to dream again as one nation for the sake of our people and for the next generation.
On May 9, we will decide whether we want to change or we just want change. We can elect Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Senator Grace Poe, Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II or Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. It doesn’t really matter if we will not change.
Economic growth will continue, and the rich will further accumulate wealth. How about the ordinary people? Will your president take care of us? Will he/she make sure all our dreams come true in 6 years? I guess not.
If we want peace and order, more jobs, and lower taxes, all candidates can promise us everything done in 6 months or their first 100 days. But what guarantee do we have? Nothing.
I cannot absolutely give my vote to corrupt candidates who do not even pay their taxes correctly or to someone whose health condition is still in question. I pay my taxes. I deserve better.
But I also feel unsafe with the hero complex of Duterte. It’s too radical and dangerous. We are not a country of criminals and terrorists. Everyone is expecting him to eradicate crimes and illegal drugs as well as be the superhero to save us all from despair.
The truth is there’s so much indifference and indecisiveness not only in government but also among us. Those of us who can contribute much left the country or refused to work in the government, while those in government with noble intentions can hardly make decisions to move our country forward for the common good due to bureaucracy or ineffectiveness.
The Tax Management Association of the Philippines (TMAP) released a tax policy survey accomplished by all presidential and vice presidential candidates. It shows that all 5 presidential candidates categorically answered yes to push for a genuine comprehensive tax reform as a priority.
But among the 5, only Poe gave a response closest to my proposal in setting up a Tax Reform Commission composed of multi-sectoral groups.
Despite the affirmative responses of all 5 candidates, I honestly find the answers of Roxas most detailed, realistic, and doable. He knows well the economic and socio-political factors affecting the move for genuine tax reform – holistic and comprehensive.
As a tax advocate, I am definitely biased toward the favorable position of candidates on tax reform. You can view all their positions via Rappler on the Guide to the 2016 Philippine Elections.
Equally important to me is to know whether all candidates are paying the right taxes based on their assets reported in their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), and if they will pay the 5% withholding tax on their campaign expenditures which will be reported in their Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE).
Also, I want to know if their contributors are honest taxpayers, as these are the same people who will influence the next president.
We are the real winners or losers, whoever will be elected as the next president. It is important that in their first 100 days, tax reform will be discussed and decided upon as a priority bill of the next president.
Let’s vote wisely. We don’t need to like everything about them. We don’t need to be friends, batchmates or schoolmates.
It’s not easy to be president so please don’t gamble on someone who just wishes to bring about change. Don’t vote based on your personal emotions or likes. Calm down, reflect, and think of our country, our people, and not just your personal preferences.
We need a leader who listens but who doesn’t necessarily follow everything we say.
As for me, I am voting for Roxas and vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo. I am taking my chances to work with them in pushing for a genuine tax reform–a simple, fair and equitable tax system.
I appeal to all taxpaying voters to please support our #BotongBuwisBuhay campaign for our country, our people and the next generation of Filipinos. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and together let’s make sure the next President will cut our taxes and will keep us safe.
Got a question about taxes? #AskTheTaxWhiz! Tweet @rapplerdotcom or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. – Rappler.com
Mon Abrea is a former BIR examiner and an advocate of genuine tax reform. He serves as chief strategy officer of the country’s first social consulting enterprise, the Abrea Consulting Group, which offers strategic finance and tax advisory services to businesses and professionals. Mon's tax handbook, Got a Question About Taxes? Ask the Tax Whiz! is now available in bookstores nationwide. Follow Mon on Twitter: @askthetaxwhiz or visit his group’s Facebook page. You may also email him at email@example.com.