By Raynan F. Javil

House leader affirms support for tax reform package despite setback

Posted on March 20, 2017

A HOUSE of Representatives leader has affirmed congressional support for the Department of Finance’s (DoF) comprehensive tax reform package despite its setback in his own committee.

“The House leadership is very supportive of the bill. Kasi wag nating isiping supportive of the bill, pikit mata lahat nang laman niyan pasok (But let’s not think that because we’re supportive, we’ll approve everything in the package),” Quirino Rep. Dakila Carlo E. Cua, chairman of the House ways and means committee, told reporters last week.

The first package is expected to result in P139.6 billion in foregone revenues from lower personal income tax, estate tax and donor tax rates but an increase of P302.1 billion from reduced VAT exemptions as well as increased excise taxes on cars and oil products by an estimated P162.5 billion.

Pero yung sa mga detalye, ibang usapan na yon kasi kailangan malaman ano yung pro-poor, ano yung anti-poor at ano yung mas maganda para sa gobyerno, yun yung binabalanse (But regarding the details of the bill, that’s a different matter because we need to know what’s pro-poor and what’s anti-poor and what’s better for the government. That is what we are trying to balance),” Mr. Cua also explained.

House Bill 4774, filed by Mr. Cua, failed to gain committee approval before Congress went on a break last Wednesday. But the panel approved the creation of a technical working group (TWG) that will harmonize the different versions of the bill seeking to lower the personal income taxes.

Mr. Cua said the TWG will be convened even during the break so that a substitute bill would be available once session resumes on May 2.

Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente “Joey” S. Salceda (2nd district), vice-chairman of the said committee, said last week that the passage of HB 4774 may be pushed back to October, three months behind the government’s July target.

“Obviously we will not make it. We will probably spend the whole of May in the House, and hopefully after half of May it goes to the Senate. So we should be able to finish it between July and August before the budget comes. So when I say October, it is a safe bet we will have it by October,” Mr. Salceda said.

Mr. Cua said it is “very helpful” that Malacañang “takes a definite stand” on the measure. Last Tuesday, President Rodrigo R. Duterte had a dinner with 15 of the 18 majority senators -- following Mr. Duterte’s meeting the day before with Senate President Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez -- partly to discuss the first of four tax reform packages that has encountered hurdles in the House ways and means committee and which faces even more questions in the Senate.

Mr. Cua also said “a lot of things can happen,” adding that the bill’s revenue target could be enhanced or reduced. “It goes both ways whether kung ma-enhance natin yung revenue or bawasan natin yung revenue,” he said.

“A lot of things can happen. It will all depend on the members of the committee -- working together -- what they believe is the best possible version of the bill,” he added.