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Planned tax amnesty gaining ground in House Ways and Means committee

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A TECHNICAL working group (TWG) of the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means committee hopes to finalize the general tax amnesty bill this week, before it is presented to the entire panel for approval when Congress resumes session late next month.

“We will have the third TWG meeting this week (hopefully the last) to come up with a substitute bill for consideration of the mother committee,” House Ways and Means committee Chairman Rep. Dakila Carlo E. Cua of Quirino said in a mobile phone message on Tuesday.

He declined to give details of specific issues being discussed, saying only that the TWG has been consolidating the suggestions of all affected sectors.

The measure — filed as House Bill No. 7105 — seeks to impose an eight percent tax on the net worth of those applying for amnesty covering taxable year 2017, or P10,000-10 million depending on the type of taxpayer, in exchange for immunity from civil, criminal and administrative penalties. The measure also includes relaxation of bank secrecy to allow the Bureau of Internal Revenue to check the bank accounts of those seeking amnesty in order to verify their declarations during the amnesty period.

The Senate version, Senate Bill No. 942, offers a five percent tax.

The Department of Finance (DoF) hopes to implement the general tax amnesty program before yearend.

Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said on Monday that the government is ready to offer tax amnesty following the sale of a local tobacco manufacturer found to have evaded taxes that is now paying the correct levies.

“We have already established our strong commitment to collect taxes. May credibility ang government,” Mr. Diokno told reporters, adding that he is confident that the measure could be implemented this year.

The general amnesty follows Republic Act No. 10963, or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, that slashed personal income tax rates but either added or raised tax rates on several items, besides removing value added tax exemptions of a number of sectors.

The government is looking at up to four more tax reform packages, with the entire effort designed to help fund an P8-trillion infrastructure development drive until 2022, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte ends his six-year term. The reform program is also designed to shift the tax burden away from the poor and increase collections besides.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee has estimated that TRAIN and the package that includes both the planned general tax amnesty and an increase in the motor vehicle users charge to yield some P124.9 billion in additional collections this year.

The amnesty itself is designed to bring more taxpayers into the system.

Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito G. Lambino II said it helps that state tax collectors have lately been surpassing their targets.

“So far, our revenue performance has been very good. In fact our revenues have exceeded targets. So in terms of being able to finance our spending program, ok pa naman,” Mr. Lambino said in an interview last week.

“But the expectation was really that the amnesty would enhance revenues. The committee is still working, we don’t know what the final components will be.”

The Bureau of Internal Revenue collected P827.91 billion in the five months to May, exceeding its P803-billion goal for that period by 3.1%, while the Bureau of Customs topped its P50.628-billion target for the same period by 3.9%, raking in P52.601 billion.

Overall tax revenues are targeted at P2.677 trillion this year, while total state revenues are programmed at P2.846 trillion. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan