BIR launches US-funded system to certify tax software providers

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Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)

THE BUREAU of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched on Thursday a certification system that will authorize and verify third-party providers of electronic tax solutions.

The electronic Tax Software Providers Certification System (eTSPCert) is an online electronic certification system for TSPs — or those individuals or organizations offering tax filing and payment services through mobile or desktop tax filing applications.

“With a system for certifying tax preparation and payment solutions, taxpayers can be confident that when working with authorized tax preparers, their tax returns and payments will be received, processed, and recorded by the BIR,” the BIR said.

The system certifies that the developers’ software is consistent with the BIR’s security standards, and assures that any data filed goes through to the BIR database.

The project is expected to increase the number of legitimate tax filing and payment channels, which in turn will benefit more businesses, increase compliance and improve tax filing and payment efficiency.

“The eTSPCert System is, from end to end, a completely online system, where there shall be absolutely zero contact between applicants and the BIR personnel who shall evaluate the software submitted for certification. We are all excited and eager to see the eTSPCert System up and running, because it will surely be helpful in easing the taxpayers’ compliance burden, and ultimately serve to increase the rate of electronic filing and payment,” said BIR Deputy Commissioner Lanee C. David.

Overall, about 56% of 2.9 million taxpayers file taxes electronically, and only 17% use electronic payment channels.

The BIR said that the program will improve tax administration, enhance fiscal performance, and advance the ease of doing business.

The expansion of electronic and digital platforms for tax filing increases compliance, eliminates fraud, graft and corrupt practices, makes revenue flows more transparent, and shifts transactions away from cash, according to the BIR.

The BIR aims to have 20-23 million individuals and businesses to file and pay their taxes electronically, from 19 million last year.

“We at USAID remain committed to supporting the Philippine government’s tax policy and tax administration reforms as well as public financial management reforms. As we support the Philippines’ goal of accelerating e-payments usage under the USAID/E-Peso project, we will continue to assist the BIR in ways that will help improve efficiency, transparency, and accountability in public financial transactions,” said USAID Philippines’ Office of Economic Development Chief Jeffrey Lehrer, for his part.

Since 2013, the USAID’s Facilitating Public Investment (FPI) program has supported the BIR in modernizing tax administration, make it more efficient and compliant with internationally accepted principles of self-assessment, voluntary compliance and transparency.

The FPI is a five-year, $15.3-million project that began in 2013, and seeks to address tax revenue inefficiencies, tax evasion issues, and public spending bottlenecks.

The BIR collected P1.61 trillion in the 10 months to October period, up 12% year-on-year. This is equivalent to 78.96% of the P2.039-trillion 2018 target.

The Philippines’ rank in the World Bank’s latest Paying Taxes ranking was 94th out of 190 countries, from 105th a year earlier. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan