By Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan
A PLANNED GENERAL tax amnesty could start next semester if Congress could ratify the bill by June, the Department of Finance (DoF) said yesterday.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III bared the DoF’s desired timetable for legislation of the succeeding packages of the tax reform program, as the second regular session of the 17th Congress nears its end on June 1.
“We aim to have a tax amnesty bill pass Congress in the next month,” Mr. Dominguez said in a speech on Monday at the 65th National Convention of the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines in Davao City, a copy of which was distributed to reporters.
Asked how soon could the government implement the amnesty program once the bill hurdles in legislation, Mr. Dominguez said in a mobile phone message: “depends on how complex the requirements will be, but definitely before year end.”
However the measure, filed as House Bill No. 7105 and Senate Bill (SB) No. 942, has yet to emerge from committee-level deliberations, even as both versions were initially targeted to hurdle Congress within the first quarter.
House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairperson Dakila Carlo E. Cua (Quirino) said last week that his panel has been “rushing” the bill’s approval at the committee level “hopefully before we go on a break”.
The House version imposes an eight percent tax on amnesty availers’ net worth, 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 bill also includes the relaxation of the Bank Secrecy Law, allowing the Bureau of Internal Revenue to inspect tax amnesty availers’ bank accounts to ensure accuracy of their declarations during the amnesty period.
The Senate version, in comparison, imposes a lower five percent amnesty rate covering taxable year 2015.
The tax amnesty bill forms part of so-called Package 1B, consisting of provisions that had been stricken from Republic Act No. (RA) 10963, or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act law, signed into law in mid-December and which took effect last January.
Package 1B also includes an estate tax amnesty — which had been approved on third and final reading by the House early last year but which is pending with the Senate ways and means committee — and the motor vehicle users tax that is still stuck in committee level in both chambers.
Package 1B will increase projected additional revenues from the first of up to five planned tax reform packages (RA 10963) to P124.9 billion this year from P82.3 billion initially.
Mr. Dominguez also said the DoF is “targeting the third week of July as the deadline for filing Packages 3 and 4 with Congress,” with the former consisting of changes in property taxation and valuation to give national and local levies in this sector a uniform framework, and the latter restructuring capital income and financial taxes.
Mr. Dominguez added in his speech that “Package 2 of the comprehensive tax reform program that will lower corporate income tax rates for everybody… and modernize our fiscal incentives is moving at a good pace towards legislation.”
In order to “prepare for conditions of high growth and more intensive economic activity, we need to prepare our systems and institutions,” he said.
The DoF aims for Packages 2, 3 and 4 to be implemented next year.
Mr. Dominguez said earlier that the DoF will be proposing to Congress within this year “Package 2+” which includes more increases to tobacco and alcohol taxes and a comprehensive mining tax reform to give the government a bigger share in miners’ revenues, but made no mention of them in his speech yesterday.