House panel wants tax reform bill passed mid-2017

MANILA, Philippines – House ways and means committee chairperson Dakila Cua wants the 17th Congress to pass the tax reform bill by next year. 

"Ang target po sana natin matapos sa committee [level] (Our target is for it to be finished at the committee level) by before the end of the year. That would depend on the plenary, that would also depend on the Senate. So hopefully, by the first half of next year, up for signing na siguro (it would probably be up for signing already)," said the Quirino representative in a press conference on Monday, October 17.

The House panel recently met with the Department of Finance (DOF) to discuss the latter's first batch of proposed tax reforms, which includes the restructuring of the personal income tax system and the expansion of the value added tax (VAT) base.

The maximum rate of personal income tax will be reduced over time from the current 32% to 25%, except for high income earners

But the DOF is proposing an increase on fuel excise tax and the restructuring of the excise tax on automobiles, except for buses, trucks, cargo vans, jeeps, jeepney substitutes, and special purpose vehicles. VAT exemptions for senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) would also be reduced. 

These have prompted several lawmakers to dub the DOF's proposed tax reform package "anti-poor" and "counter-productive."

Cua and some members of his committee already met with the DOF on October 13 to discuss possible adjustments to the tax proposal, including retaining the VAT exemptions for senior citizens and PWDs.

"Pinag-aralan lang kung magkano ba ang impact nun at gaano ka-material ba. Ang lumalabas kasi, P6 to 10 million lang 'yung magiging incremental increase annually," said Cua. 

(We're studying its impact in terms of funds and how material it is. It seems the incremental increase annually is only P6 million to P10 million.)

"So ang ating pinakiusap sa kanila, kung gano'n lang din kaliit at tatanggalan ng privilege ang ating mga senior citizens and persons with disabilities, can we explore working with the legislature?… Kung may nag-aabuso or nakakalusot or loopholes, how can the legislature help to plug these loopholes?" he added. 

(So our appeal to the DOF is that if the increase would be that small and we'll remove some of the privileges of senior citizens and persons with disabilities, can we explore working with the legislature?… If there are those abusing the system, how can the legislature help plug these loopholes?)

The lawmaker said he also suggested that the DOF further study its proposal to add P6 to excise tax on fuel.

"Ang sabi naman namin, pag-aralan nang mabuti ang epekto nito sa presyo ng bilihin, sa presyo ng pagkain, sa presyo ng transport, para mapaliwanag natin sa publiko kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng panukala nila na P6 increase in excise tax," Cua said.

(We asked them to closely study its effects on the prices of goods, food, transportation, so it would be clear to the public what the DOF's proposal to have a P6 increase in excise tax really means.)

The House committee on ways and means has also asked the DOF if it can focus on making tax collection procedures of the Bureau of Internal Revenue more efficient, so that there would be higher government revenue.

Both Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez already said they plan to file counter-measures to the DOF's proposal. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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