Lawyers assail BIR rule requiring self-employed to reveal fees

Buena Bernal
Lawyers assail BIR rule requiring self-employed to reveal fees
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines asks the Supreme Court to halt the regulation or the law profession might be seen as a 'mere trade or moneymaking endeavor'

MANILA, Philippines – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is asking the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the implementation of a tax regulation requiring self-employed professionals like lawyers to declare the service fees they charge clients.

In a case filed with the court en banc on Tuesday, April 8, the IBP said Revenue Regulation (RR) 4-2014 of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) infringes on the right to privacy of lawyers and their clients.

Issued by the BIR on March 20, the regulation requires self-employed professionals to submit “an affidavit indicating the rates, manner of billings, and the factors” considered in determining service fees.

“An attorney is mandated to keep inviolate his client’s secrets or confidences…. Said affidavit containing a lawyer’s rates will become accessible to the public, akin to an advertisement prohibited by this Honorable Court,” the IBP’s petition read.

The IBP cited Rule 130, Section 24 (b) of the Rules of Court, which pertains to privileged communication between a lawyer and his client.

The organization argued that the requirement for fees disclosure will impose an “illegal restriction on the practice of law, as it unduly limits a lawyer’s liberty to ascertain the fair and reasonable value of his services.”

The law profession might be seen as a “mere trade or moneymaking endeavor” once the rates are made public, the IBP added.

Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Cesar Purisima and BIR Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares, who both signed the revenue regulation, were named respondents in the petition.

IBP added that the DOF and BIR went beyond the scope of their authority in issuing the RR.

“While the BIR Commissioner has the power to secure information from taxpayers, such is limited only to ascertain the correctness of the taxes that they are liable to pay…. There is no provision in the NIRC (National Internal Revenue Code) or in other tax laws that authorizes the BIR to compel taxpayers to publicly disclose privileged and confidential information, such as their professional fees and the identities of their clients,” the IBP’s petition read.

The RR mandates the registration of books of accounts and official appointment books, which contain names of their clients and the date/time of their meetings. –

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