Taxwise Or Otherwise

Package two of the country’s tax reform initiatives will take a look at how to rationalize fiscal incentives. Certain factors that are being considered by our Finance department include the selection of industries to be promoted, the actual performance of registered entities vis-a-vis targets, and the period for availing of the incentives. It will be interesting to see how the government will continue to incentivize activities that result in positive social impact and inclusive growth. One of these activities currently qualified for fiscal incentives is the corporate Inclusive Business (IB) model.

IB is a private sector or business approach specifically directed at low-income communities or people who live at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP). A company adopting this approach customizes its business model to include low-income communities in its value chain as customers, suppliers, distributors, retailers, or employees. IBs provide more access to basic goods and services, and create opportunities for employment and livelihood to the marginalized sector in a sustainable, scalable, and commercially viable manner.

While it seems philanthropic, IBs are actually profitable investments. They also provide opportunities for large-scale businesses to realize reasonable profits from markets with significant growth potential, while making a positive social impact like reducing poverty and supporting community development. Hitting two birds with one stone as the old cliché goes.

IBs differ from Corporate Social Responsibility activities in that the latter are not conceptualized with commercial viability and profit in mind. However, both are effective ways of engaging the private sector to collaborate and partner with the low income communities, sharing in the responsibility of the government to bolster growth in all sectors, especially at the BoP.

Recognizing its potential, the Board of Investments (BoI) included IB in the 2014 Investments Priorities Plan (IPP), not as a preferred activity for investment eligible for incentives but as a key strategy for inclusive growth, and as a general policy for encouraging registered enterprises to adopt IB strategies and practices.

In the 2017 IPP, IB models finally got listed as one of the preferred activities. The IPP recognized business activities of medium and large enterprises in the agribusiness and tourism sectors which target micro and small enterprises (MSE) as part of their value chains. IB projects that are eligible for registration may qualify for BoI Pioneer status with entitlement to five years of income tax holiday.

To illustrate an IB model, let’s take an agribusiness enterprise that sources its raw materials (e.g. coffee beans, sugar, or cocoa) from low-income farmers, MSEs, or farmer’s cooperatives.

The enterprise may enter into a contract growing agreement with the farmers and may guarantee the purchase of their produce. It may provide technical assistance (e.g. trainings, seminars) or access to finance (e.g. loans, collateral) and farm inputs.

Further, the IPP enumerates the targets and the timetable for implementation of IB models.

Under the guidelines, within three years of commercial operations, at least 25% of the value of total cost of goods sold of qualified agribusiness enterprises and total cost of goods/services of qualified tourism enterprises must be sourced from registered and/or recognized MSEs (including cooperatives, or any organized entity duly recognized by a government body), as evidenced by a duly notarized contract. Moreover, there must be at least a 20% increase in the average income of individuals engaged from such MSEs from the baseline year to the third year of actual operations.

For qualified agribusiness enterprises, at least 300 farmers, fisherfolk, suppliers, and/or individual beneficiaries must be engaged, of which, at least 30% must be women. On the other hand, at least 25 direct jobs (regular employment) must be generated by qualified tourism enterprises for individuals in the identified database (e.g., DSWD Conditional Cash Transfer Graduates, DAR Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, NCIP List, PWD, and others) of which, at least 30% must be women.

In addition, the enterprise must exhibit innovation in the business model through: (1) the provision of technical assistance/capacity building to the MSEs, farmers, fisherfolk, or employees that increases productivity and/or quality; or (2) facilitation of access to finance either directly or in partnership with a third party (i.e. provision of collateral by the company, direct lending through a subsidiary or third party-financing disbursed directly to the MSEs, farmers, fisherfolk, or employees or through the company).

Innovation in the business model may also be exhibited by agribusiness enterprises through the provision of inputs and/or technology to MSEs and/or individual farmers and fisherfolk.

Interested enterprises with agribusiness and tourism projects may opt to undertake IB models by submitting their duly notarized IB plans in the required BoI format upon application for registration.

A business strategy that incorporates the marginalized sectors of society may finally serve to break the shackles of poverty. As aptly expressed in the United Nations Report entitled, Creating Value for All: Strategies for Doing Business with the Poor (2008): “Inclusive business models build bridges between business and the poor for mutual benefit. The benefits for business go beyond immediate profits and higher income. For business, they include driving innovations, building markets, and strengthening supply chains. And for the poor, they include access to essential goods and services, higher productivity, sustainable earnings, and greater empowerment.”

With the promise that it holds, there is reason for the government to qualify IB models for fiscal incentives.

The views or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Isla Lipana & Co. The content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for specific advice.

Reynaldo E. Maniego III is a manager at the Tax Services Department of Isla Lipana & Co., the Philippine member firm of the PwC network.

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