BIR taxpayers

By Beatrice M. Laforga, Reporter

THE Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) collected P134.27 billion in revenues in February, barely exceeding its collection goal as economic recovery remains sluggish.

BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel SD. Guballa told BusinessWorld on Wednesday that the bureau’s tax haul surpassed its P134.18-billion target for the month by 0.07%.

However, BIR collections were 5.58% lower than the P142.21 billion collected in February 2020, before the coronavirus lockdown led to the closure of many businesses and a slump in consumption.

For the first two months of 2021, BIR tax collections reached P316.42 billion, 6.13% lower year on year.

It also fell short of the P317.18-billion year-to-date target by 0.24%.

In a Viber message, Mr. Guballa attributed the dampened tax collections to lower gross domestic product (GDP) against the pre-lockdown levels in the first quarter of 2020.

The government placed Metro Manila and other high-risk areas under a strict lockdown from mid-March to May 2020. While the economy has slowly reopened, some quarantine restrictions remain in place.

A sharp 9.5% drop in GDP last year and limited fiscal space forced the government to slash its projected tax revenues, while driving borrowings to new highs to cover for its massive P4.5- trillion spending plan this year.

The BIR, the largest tax collecting agency, has been tasked to collect P2.081 trillion for 2021, up by 7% from the P1.95-trillion actual collection last year.

The second-largest source of government revenue, the Bureau of Customs, collected P46.145 billion in duties and taxes in February. This exceeded the target by 9.5% and the year-earlier total by 3%.

Customs aims to generate P620 billion this year, up 15% from the actual P537.687 billion in 2020.

The government capped its budget deficit at 8.9% this year, with gross borrowings expected to reach P3 trillion.