Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Higher oil tax faces rough sailing in Senate

Pimentel says senators also buck capping of VAT exemptions
By: Ben O. de Vera - 12:20 AM January 16, 2017

Tax reform, especially lowering personal income tax rates, will be high in the Senate’s priority when sessions resume today, but Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said they would continue to oppose moves to slap new taxes.
“Tax reform is very high in our priorities, but I think the Department of Finance should explain it more deeply before the senators because we have some disagreements,” Pimentel told the Inquirer last week.
Specifically, Pimentel said many of his colleagues in the Senate were opposing the DOF’s proposals to raise excise taxes on oil products as well as withdraw the value-added tax (VAT) exemption being enjoyed by senior citizens and persons with disabilities. “For us, those proposals are question marks,” he said.
 “My personal position is this—the DOF should prioritize the campaign promise of the President to reform the income tax brackets and lower the tax burden. But what I’m hearing is the imposition of new taxes, which I’m not excited about. In the campaign, there was no mention of additional taxes,” Pimentel said.
Senate ways and means committee chair Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said in a recent text message that the committee “will have public hearings when Congress resumes and get feedback from stakeholders” with regards the DOF’s tax policy reform program, specifically the first package pitched to legislators in September last year.
Before Congress went on Christmas break, the DOF submitted a revised version of the first package of its comprehensive tax reform proposal that also included the mandatory marking of oil products as well as the grant of absolute amnesty on estate tax deficiency.
A copy of the revised draft bill obtained by the Inquirer said the first package “seeks to lower personal income taxes, broaden the VAT base, adjust excise taxes on petroleum and automobiles, reduce the estate and donors tax, and provide an amnesty to past estate tax cases.”
Under the first package, the following tax administration measures were to be pursued: Mandatory use of fuel marking; recognition of e-receipts; mandatory interconnection of large and medium firms point of sale machines and accounting system with the Bureau of Internal Revenue; mandatory use of GPS locks when transporting cargo from ports to economic zones and free ports; shift to quarterly VAT and percentage tax filing to improve compliance, and relaxation of bank secrecy for fraud cases.
While it was initially supposed to be included in the succeeding tax reform packages, the DOF is now moving to include in the first package the reduction of estate and donors tax to 6 percent while also providing absolute amnesty on past estate taxes that had been unpaid.
The bill retained the salient provisions of the original first package as proposed by the DOF, including adjusting tax brackets to correct “income bracket creeping”; reducing the maximum personal income tax rate to 25 percent over time, save for the “ultra-rich” who would be slapped a higher 35 percent, and shifting to a simpler modified gross system.
As lower personal income taxes would result in foregone revenues estimated at P127.4 billion by 2018, the DOF plans to offset and gain P301.6 billion by expanding the VAT base by limiting exemptions to necessities such as raw food, education and health products and services; increasing the excise tax slapped on all oil products and indexing these to inflation as well as jacking up excise taxes on automobiles.
The government stands to generate a net revenue gain of P174.2 billion from the first package by 2018, the first year of implementation being considered by the DOF as the bill was targeted to be enacted into law in 2017.

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