PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

By Luz Wendy T. Noble, Reporter 

The Philippines expects to narrow its budget deficit, with the government having raised tax collections as of end-September amid a coronavirus pandemic, according to its Finance chief. 

“We are confident that the elevated debt and deficit level is a temporary condition and we can quickly return to fiscal consolidation,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez, III told a virtual event organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific on Friday. 

“In fact, in the first three quarters of this year, our tax collections were already 9% above last year’s level,” he added. 

Tax collections rose by 9.3% to P2.03 trillion from a year earlier in the nine months through September, he told reporters in a Viber group message. 

Internal Revenue collections had increased by 6.9% to P1.54 trillion as of end-September from a year earlier, while Customs collections climbed by 18% to P469.8 billion, Mr. Dominguez said. 

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is expected to collect P2.081 trillion this year, while the Bureau of Customs is estimated to raise P620 billion for a total of P2.7 trillion. 

The collection target was set at P3.106 trillion for 2022 — P2.435 trillion for the BIR and P671.7-billion for the Customs bureau. 

The BIR collected P1.867 billion in unpaid taxes in the first three quarters of this year, the Finance department said in a separate statement. The agency has shuttered 322 businesses who failed to pay the right taxes. 

Unpaid taxes collected in September alone hit P290 million, with two establishments closed, BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel SD. Guballa said in a report to the Finance department. 

This year, the government expects the budget deficit to hit 9.3% of economic output before easing to 7.5% next year. The budget gap tripled to P120.9 billion in August from a year earlier on higher state subsidies, while revenues remained muted.