Increase salaries of tax collectors to fight corruption – BIR exec

Aika Rey
"We need more decent people at the revenue service. The only way to eradicate corruption is to standardize salaries," a deputy commissioner says

HIGHER WAGES. Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Deputy Commissiner Jesus Clint Aranas seeks for the bureau to be exempted from the Salary Standardization Law. Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – How do you curb corruption in the country’s biggest tax-collection agency? 

Exempt tax collectors from the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

A competitive salary package for tax collectors is the answer, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Deputy Commissioner Jesus Clint Aranas said in a tax forum on Wednesday, February 1, in Pasay City.

Aranas said that salaries play a big part in professionalizing the bureau, noting that personnel with lower salaries are the ones who “most likely” give in to corrupt practices. 

“If you have a noncompliant taxpayer and a revenue examiner with a low salary, that’s where corruption starts,” the deputy commissioner said. (READ: Impact of corruption on the Philippines

A bill that was recently submitted to Congress seeks to exempt BIR from the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) to enable the agency to adopt its own compensation packages that are comparable with the private sector. 

“We need more decent people at the revenue service. The only way to eradicate corruption is to standardize salaries,” he said.

Undermanned agency

According to Aranas, tax administration is difficult because the agency is undermanned. He noted that the BIR’s compensation packages have discouraged professionals from joining the agency.

The deputy commissioner said that some certified public accountants in the bureau earn a net of P14,000 a month, which is way below hiring rates in the private sector. BIR’S proposal allows for competitive salary packages as much as P60,000 a month for an accountant, he said.

The BIR currently has about 10,000 employees while there are more than 11,000 posts that are yet to be filled. 

“No one is interested. We’re always the last option. Otherwise, we won’t have this kind of vacancy,” he said.

Abolish BIR?

Asked whether he welcomes the idea of abolishing the BIR, Aranas said he is open to it if overhauling the agency will help reduce corruption and stabilize the tax system. (READ: #AskTheTaxWhiz: Can we really stop corruption in BIR?)

Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently filed a bill that will replace the BIR with the National Revenue Agency. The proposal seeks to further “professionalize” the agency and to improve tax collection to reduce the country’s deficit.

BIR is considered among the corrupt agencies in the government. Aranas claimed that sums of money lost to corruption exceed what the agency is actually able to collect. 

“The other way is to discipline them. But even if you discipline a hundred children, those children will still be hungry,” the deputy commissioner said.

“Money is the root cause,” he added.

In a 2013 survey, the Office of the Ombudsman found that one in every 20 Filipino families paid a bribe or grease money when transacting with a government agency.

To stop this practice, Aranas also urged business executives during the forum to pay the right taxes on schedule.

“Just be compliant. The system works if you make it work for you,” he said. – Rappler.com  

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.