By Beatrice M. Laforga

GOVERNMENT TAX collections plunged in the first 15 days of April, mainly as tax payment deadlines were deferred due to lockdown measures implemented in Luzon and other parts of the country.

Citing preliminary data, the Department of Finance (DoF) on Sunday said combined collections by the Bureaus of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Customs (BoC) reached only P40.57 billion from April 1 to 15.

The figure was 87.16% short of the P315.95-billion target for the period, and 84% lower than the P260.45 billion collected during the same period in 2019.

In a statement, the DoF said the BIR collected only P25.01 billion between April 1 to 17, representing 8.66% of its P288.75-billion target for the entire month. This was also 89.5% lower than the P237.93 billion collected in April last year.

DoF attributed the decline to the deferment of tax payment deadlines for income tax returns (ITR), monthly value-added tax (VAT) returns, quarterly VAT payments, among others. The deadline for filing and payment of ITRs was moved to May 29 from April 15 originally, in light of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) which began in mid-March.

BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel SD. Guballa said in a mobile phone message that another deadline extension for ITR payments is “still under evaluation,” after the ECQ in Metro Manila was extended until May 15.

For the BoC, collections reached P15.57 billion in the first half of April, 42.76% short of its P27.2-billion target and 30.89% lower than the P22.52-billion collected in the same period last year.

Customs Assistant Commissioner and Spokesperson Vincent Philip C. Maronilla earlier said that the decline in oil prices and demand has dragged its revenues.

From January 1 to April 17, the total tax haul of the two main revenue-generating agencies stood at P641.62 billion — 40% short of the P1.073-trillion target and 26.3% lower than the P871.19 billion collected in the same period last year.

BIR, which accounts for 78% of the government’s tax collection capacity, generated P480.64 billion from Jan. 1 to April 17, which was short by 45.3% of the P879.18-billion target and 32% lower year on year.

Excise tax collections slumped across all products with total payments only reaching P76.47 billion during the three-and-a-half-month period, 52.75% short of the P161.84-billion target and 33% smaller compared to last year.

“The consistent large excise tax collection drawers — tobacco and alcohol — recorded significant declines in collections,” DoF said.

Excise tax collections from tobacco products reached P33.19 billion, 42.5% lower than last year’s P57.75 billion.

On the other hand, excise tax collection from alcohol products slid 26% to P17.85 billion, from P24.09 billion a year ago.

Year-to-date, the BoC’s collections stood at P160.98 billion, falling 17% short of its P193.89-billion target and 2.08% lower than the P164.4 billion generated last year.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier cited estimates by the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) that if the economy posts zero growth this year due to the effects of the pandemic, the drop in revenues will reach around P286.4 billion.

However, if growth contracts by one percent, the revenue drop would reach P318 billion.

National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon earlier assured that the funding gap could be covered by revenues generated by other agencies, income of the Treasury, dividends from state-owned firms and other contributions.

BIR and BoC were tasked to collect P3.307 trillion this year, with BIR’s target at P2.576 trillion and BoC’s goal at P731 billion.