By Melissa Luz T. Lopez
THE DEPARTMENT of Finance (DoF) said it will push for a new measure that will provide a general tax amnesty, after such a provision was vetoed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte when he signed into law last Friday the reprieve for estate tax liabilities and national tax delinquencies in specific circumstances.
The tax amnesty program imposes an amnesty charge equivalent to a portion of the taxpayers’ outstanding unpaid taxes in exchange for immunity from civil, criminal and administrative penalties.
“The President was constrained to veto the portion of the law covering the general amnesty because of the lack of provisions breaking the walls of bank secrecy, setting the framework for complying with international standards on exchange of information, and other safeguards against those who abuse by declaring untruthful assets or net worth,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters via Viber message.
“However, the estate tax amnesty and the amnesty on delinquency taxes remain.”
The DoF expected its original tax amnesty proposal to raise P41 billion in additional revenue, but latest estimates show that expected revenues will just be at P6.8 billion after the veto — barely a fifth of program.
“We will work with Congress to pass a general tax amnesty with the proper safeguards, such a lifting of bank secrecy provisions and the AEoI (automatic exchange of information with foreign tax authorities), if not in this Congress, then in the next,” Mr. Dominguez said.
“Implementation may still be within the year so revenues will come in.”
He stressed that the state can actually rake in as much as P76.6 billion over the next five years if authorities were authorized to obtain more data from taxpayers.
On the other hand, Mr. Dominguez said the department estimated foregone revenues of about P53 billion “if the general tax amnesty was not vetoed.”
Congress is on a Feb. 9-May 19 break for the May 13 mid-term elections that will see half of Senate seats and the entire House of Representatives up for grabs.
Lawmakers work again on May 20-June 7, which is the last window for legislation before the 17th Congress ends.
Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita B. Suansing (1st district), chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means, said it can finish work on that measure within that time. “Three weeks to go before end of 17th Congress — kaya namin up to third reading (We can approve it on third reading within that time),” Ms. Suansing said in a mobile phone message when sought for comment.
Her Senate counterpart, however, wasn’t as optimistic. “I doubt there is enough time this Congress. Maybe in the 18th Congress,” committee chair Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said separately.
Another provision removed from the final version of the law was the one-time settlement of several estates, with Malacañang saying the flat six percent rate based on estate value at the time of the owner’s death “is… quite generous.”
Also vetoed was a provision that presumes correctness of declarations on estate tax amnesty returns.
“When one avails of the amnesty, the government should be able to verify his declarations,” Mr. Dominguez explained. — with Charmaine A. Tadalan and Camille A. Aguinaldo
By Melissa Luz T. Lopez