THE Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is being counted on to exceed its collection target for 2021, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said Wednesday, after the agency beat its 2020 target, the first time it has done so in 17 years.

The BIR collected P1.94 trillion in taxes last year, down 11% from a year earlier but 15% higher than the P1.69-trillion revised target for 2020.

“With digitalization, improved administrative systems, and the dedication of the men and women of the bureau, I have no doubt that the target will not be just met, but will be exceeded again,” Mr. Dominguez said during a BIR virtual event.

Around 85% of the taxes collected last year were coursed through electronic payment platforms, while nearly all tax returns were filed online as well, against the 43% seen in 2015.

“I am confident that the agency will continue to make progress in applying digital technology for all its processes. This will enhance efficiency throughout the agency,” Mr. Dominguez said.

The BIR is tasked to collect P2.081 trillion this year, exceeding its 2020 total by about 7%. The economic team revised revenue targets downwards several times for the BIR and the Bureau of Customs last year after the economic downturn dampened consumption and forced many businesses to reduce operations or shut down.

In the virtual event, BIR Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay said the agency’s programs to provide tax relief to individuals and help them settle their back taxes will continue this year. This includes the Tax Amnesty program on delinquent accounts, which was extended to the end of June, and the pursuit of compromise settlements for those with arrears.

“Ngayong 2021, tuloy tuloy (the programs will continue this year). I appeal to the taxpayers to take advantage, first, of the amnesty and second, the program of compromise agreement. After all, sabi rin ni President, mas maganda ‘yung mag-compromise kaysa magkakaso kayo (the President has said compromise agreement is better than running after taxpayers in court), as long as the agreement is within the parameters of the law,” Mr. Dulay said.

On other possible forms of tax relief, he said discussions will be held with Mr. Dominguez.

The BIR released on Wednesday streamlined policies and procedures for issuing the final decisions of approval on applications for compromise settlements, whether these are denied, accepted or canceled, through Revenue Memorandum Order No. 8-2021.

It said notices of denial on applications with deficiency tax of less than P500,000 will only be signed by regional directors, while those beyond the threshold will have to be signed by the BIR Commissioner.

Certificates of availment to be issued in case an application is approved, will have to be “signed by the assistant commissioner of the collection service, except those involving large taxpayers cases, which shall be signed by the assistant commissioner of the large taxpayers service.”

Regional directors or assistant commissioners have been named signatories for all cases involving authority to cancel assessments. — Beatrice M. Laforga