GIANT Christmas balls are displayed inside a mall in Mandaluyong City. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

By Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson, Reporter

THE GOVERNMENT should consider raising taxes in order to ramp up revenues and meet its fiscal consolidation targets, analysts said.

“Improved tax collection is crucial, but additional revenue streams might be necessary. The government’s stance against new taxes could be tweaked,” Security Bank Corp. Chief Economist Robert Dan J. Roces said in a Viber message.

This after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that there is room to generate more revenues both through better tax administration and higher taxes, as it expects the pace of the country’s fiscal consolidation to be slower than initially anticipated.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee at its April meeting raised the budget deficit ceiling for the medium term as it boosts infrastructure spending.

The government is targeting to bring down the deficit-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio to 3.7% by 2028.

This year, it set the deficit ceiling at 5.6% of GDP or equivalent to P1.48 trillion.

“The current administration’s policy of raising taxes simply through tax administration measures is not sufficient on its own,” Leonardo A. Lanzona, an economics professor at the Ateneo de Manila University said in an e-mail.

Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto has said he does not plan to introduce any new or implement higher taxes until the end of the Marcos administration. Instead, he wants to focus on enhancing tax administration and boosting nontax revenue sources.

Mr. Lanzona said that the plan to rely on simply improving tax administration only has “marginal” gains.

“An over-reliance on improved tax administration will overlook the need to diversify revenue sources that can expand the number of revenue options needed for structural transformation,” he said.

“A balanced approach introduces a flexibility especially if the tax administration measures are faced with political and social resistance forcing the government to struggle to achieve the necessary political consensus for broader reforms.”

Latest data from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) showed that the National Government’s (NG) budget deficit widened to P229.9 billion in the January-April period from a year ago.

BTr data showed that revenues jumped by 16.8% to P1.47 trillion in the first four months as tax revenues rose by 13.21% to P1.28 trillion while nontax revenues surged by 48.8% to P188.8 billion.

Mr. Lanzona also bucked the notion that raising taxes results in inflation.

“That is true if the new tax measures are limited to the value-added tax (VAT) which are incorporated into firms’ additional costs. This will not happen if the government will begin to consider a more progressive income tax system and wealth taxes,” he added.

Mr. Roces said the government can explore “growth-friendly tax policy changes alongside stricter tax administration to solidify the consolidation plan’s long-term success.”

“By consolidating its fiscal position, the Philippines can free up resources that can be redirected towards essential development goals, such as infrastructure development, healthcare, education, poverty reduction and income distribution,” Mr. Lanzona added.

On the other hand, Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr., president of a research consultancy and of the Minimal Government Thinkers think tank, said that the government’s fiscal consolidation path is both achievable and ambitious.

“Ambitious is good especially in relation to cutting high public debt stock, cutting high annual interest payment,” he said in a Viber message.

“The 3.7% deficit ratio by 2028 should be kept as a goal to control spending and borrowing whenever possible while raising revenues elsewhere, especially privatization.”

Mr. Oplas warned that tax hikes are inflationary and price pressures are passed onto consumers regardless of the tax type.

There is no need to raise taxes amid the government’s existing revenue generation measures, he said, such as privatizing assets, raising the mandatory dividend requirement of government-owned and -controlled corporations as well as cracking down on smuggling.

The IMF said the Philippine government can improve efficiency in VAT collection and review existing tax exemptions.