SENATORS are unlikely to support a plan to tax online sellers while the country is in the middle of a novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a senator.

“The plan to tax online micro and small businesses is not only insensitive but totally unnecessary,” Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said in a mobile phone message on Sunday.

The local tax bureau has issued a circular asking online businesses to register by July 31 as it tries to plug tax leakages.

“Those with devious minds planning these tax schemes will have little or no support at the Senate,” the senator said.

Senators Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, Juan Edgardo M. Angara and Sherwin T. Gatchalian have opposed the plan of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which they said should go after big companies instead.

Mr. Zubiri joined the call of other senators to instead tax the offshore gaming operators in the country, mostly Chinese companies that hire their own nationals. The industry owes the government about P50 billion in taxes, he said.

“Lets slap a heavy excise or franchise tax on top of the income tax charged to them,” he said. “Why make our small enterprising and entrepreneurial Pinoys suffer from the threat of taxation and allow foreign Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators to operate while evading or underpaying their taxes?”

These companies are subject to a 5% franchise tax, collected in lieu of all kinds of taxes such as income and value-added tax, as well as fees on service income from nongaming operations.

Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda has said the ways and means committee that he heads was inclined to tax digital transactions of big companies instead of small entrepreneurs. He committed to raise the issue when the panel hears the bill.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III earlier said only individuals earning more than P250,000 yearly will be taxed. Sellers with gross receipts not exceeding P3 million will be exempted from value-added tax, he said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan