With the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) earning a net of P14,000 in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will receive a little more this month, but with a higher revenue collection goal of P2.039 trillion for the year.
After police officers received a pay hike and more administrative reforms being implemented to complement and support the comprehensive tax reform of the Duterte administration, it may now be argued that our tax collectors need a higher pay.
There are two compelling reasons to do this now.
First, if we want to attract more competent professionals — lawyers and CPAs — to join the BIR, the government needs to offer a competitive package on a par with the private sector.
Second, if we really want to stop corruption in BIR, then aside from fully implementing the Attrition Law, the government must help protect the integrity of its personnel by providing competitive compensation and benefits.
This is owing to the fact that BIR collects almost 80% of the total government funds with less than 3,000 examiners conducting audit and investigation nationwide while operating with more or less 10,000 vacancies.
How can we hire the best and the brightest in the so-called “most corrupt” government agency if we will not invest in hiring the right people who can provide good and honest public service?
A genuine tax reform must address all issues of inequity, injustice, and inefficiency. If we want a simpler, fairer and more efficient tax system, we cannot leave our tax collectors behind.
Up to this day, we hear stories of examiners harassing or accepting bribes to settle BIR audit.
This, despite the campaign of Commissioner Caesar “Billy” Dulay in promoting integrity and honesty in the BIR and in paying taxes in our country through the Seal of Honesty (SoH) Certification Program.
We can keep increasing our taxes but unless we collect the right taxes from honest or at least compliant and conscientious taxpayers, it will still not be enough to fund the “Build, Build, Build” program of the government.
To stop corruption in the BIR seems impossible but there’s a slight chance we can achieve it.
We need to bring on board more honest and competent professionals to institutionalize reform in the Bureau while we incentivize and encourage more honest and compliant taxpayers.
If all things fail, we may have to privatize and automate the entire tax administration to increase its less than P8-billion budget to collect more than P2 trillion to fund the government.
In the meantime, let’s all do our fair share to help each other pay the right taxes to help build a better Philippines. To know more about the Seal of Honesty Certification Program, visit www.sealofhonesty.ph or call (+632) 622-7720.
The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Popularly known as the Philippine Tax Whiz, the author is one of the 2016 Outstanding Persons of the World, one of the 2015 The Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM), and founder of the Abrea Consulting Group and Center for Strategic Reforms of the Philippines (CSR Philippines). He currently serves as Adviser to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue of the Philippine government on tax administration reform in promoting inclusive growth.
Follow Raymond A. Abrea on Twitter @askthetaxwhiz