THE government’s main collection agencies failed to meet their revenue targets for the first quarter, as March collections took a hit due to the Luzon-wide lockdown that shuttered government and business operations.

Citing preliminary data, the Finance department reported the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BoC) generated a combined P600.86 billion from January to March. This was 20.63% or P156.26 billion short of the P757.12-billion revenue target for the first quarter, and P10.17 billion lower than the collections in the first quarter of 2019.

Collections in March were significantly affected by the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon which began on March 16 and has been extended until April 30.

For the month of March, the BIR and BoC collected P163.15 billion, representing 65.65% of the month’s P248.5-billion goal, and 17.45% lower than the P197.64 billion collected in March 2019.

BIR collections in March slumped 20.06% year on year to P118.35 billion, which represented only 62.13% of the P190.48-billion target for the month. Collections from large taxpayers fell 17.42% to P80.19 billion.

Customs revenues also declined 9.66% to P44.8 billion in March, which also fell 22.78% short of the P58.02-billion target.

“I think it’s safe to say the global situation due to the COVID-19 affected port operations globally, leading to the shortfall we experienced in March,” BoC Assistant Commissioner and Spokesperson Vincent Philip C. Maronilla said in a mobile phone message earlier.

For the first quarter, BIR collections stood at P455.45 billion — 22.86% short of its P590.43-billion target and slipping 2.86% from a year ago’s P468.86 billion.

BIR collected P284.39 billion from large taxpayers in the January to March period, 26.36% lower than the P386.19-billion goal and a 6.14% drop from a year-ago’s collections.

The BoC reported P145.41 billion in collections during the first quarter, 2.28% up from the P142.17 billion it collected last year, but still 12.76% short of its P166.69-billion target.

As the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic widens, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said he expects tax collections to be “definitely… a bit lower than our original target.”

The two agencies were tasked to collect P3.307 trillion this year to partially fund the government’s P4.1-trillion spending plan, with BIR’s target at P2.576 trillion and BoC’s at P731 billion.

Mr. Dominguez said the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) estimated that the government’s revenues could decline by as much as P318 billion if the 2020 gross domestic product (GDP) will contract by one percent or by P286.4 billion if the economy posts zero growth.

Meanwhile, National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon has assured that the government has enough cash to fund its cash aid programs and response against the coronavirus outbreak.

In an interview on Friday, Ms. De Leon said the government could still meet its funding requirements given the central bank’s P300-billion payment for the government bonds as well as the previous successful auctions which raised P84.925 billion.

She said there will be additional liquidity once the $5.7 billion worth of loans from multilateral lenders are approved. She said they will also continue to tap the local market via the regular auctions, while keeping an eye on the international market for opportunities. — Beatrice M. Laforga