THE Department of Finance (DoF) said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) collections have grown sharply in the first two full years of the Duterte administration, while remaining just a few percentage points below target in each of the two years.

In a statement, the DoF said that the BIR collected P1.78 trillion, or 97.35% of its P1.83-trillion target, in 2017, and P1.96 trillion, or 96.04% of the P2.04-trillion target, in 2018.

In 2015, the last full year under the previous government, the BIR reported collections of P1.44 trillion, or 86.12% of its target of P1.67 trillion.

The current administration took over at the end of June 2016.

“To his credit, President Duterte has transcended all the political chatter and stayed focused on pursuing policy initiatives such as tax reform, trade liberalization and infrastructure modernization, that are necessary to sustain the growth momentum, attract investments and ensure financial inclusion for all Filipinos on his watch,” Carlos G. Dominguez III, Finance Secretary, said in the statement.

According to the DoF, tax effort, or the proportion of collections relative to the size of the economy, was recorded at 11.27% in 2017 and 11.26% in 2018, from 10.82% seen in 2015 and 10.56% in 2014.

“The 2018 tax effort of 14.7% to GDP (gross domestic product) is the highest in 20 years,” Mr. Dominguez said.

The DoF noted that the collection performance of the BIR averaged 96.7% in the first two full years of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term, as compared with the 94.5% in the full five years of the previous administration.

The DoF attributed the increase to the government’s tax reform program that “has led to the strong performance of revenue collection” wherein tax revenue increased by 14% to P2.565 trillion in 2018 from P2.250 trillion a year earlier.

The BIR has said it is expecting higher collections for this year from the tax amnesty program rollout.

The BIR generated total revenue of P468.2 billion in the first quarter of 2019, up 11% from a year earlier.

The BIR has been actively running after manufacturers of cigarettes and other commodities with fake tax stamps and charging them with tax evasion, as well as requiring Philippine Online Gaming Operators (POGOs) to register their companies with the BIR as a condition for the issue of operating licenses. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio