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Tulfo slams BIR for targeting low-income earners, small biz owners

October 4, 2022 Camille P. Balagtas 238 views

SENATOR Raffy Tulfo questioned the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for persistently targeting low-income earners and small-time business owners instead of big-time tax evaders, like oil smugglers, to generate public revenues.

During the Senate Finance Sub-committee A budget hearing today Oct. 3, Tulfo said he is irked because BIR has a record of targeting Filipino citizens whose jobs are in the lower tiers of the supply chain every time they miss their collection target.

He said these low-income earners include, among others, pedicab and tricycle drivers, market vendors, and sari-sari store owners.

“Tuwing gusto niyo po makakolekta ng karagdagang buwis, dahil kayo po ay nagkaroon ng shortfall dahil hindi niyo naabot ang target niyo, ang pinag-iinitan ninyo palagi ay yung mga maliliit nating kababayan,” he said.

Tulfo recalled that as early as 2010, the BIR proposed to require pedicab and tricycle drivers, market vendors, and sari-sari store owners to issue receipts for products or services sold for more than P25.

He noted that in 2017, BIR instructed the 123 revenue district officers nationwide to start listing down “sari-sari” or variety stores and other small-scale businesses for tax collection purposes. He also recalled BIR’s public warning to vloggers to pay their taxes in 2021.

If BIR seriously aims to collect big revenue through taxation, he maintained that the bureau should focus its attention on oil smugglers, which would help the government generate billions of pesos more in state revenues.

The senator from Isabela and Davao stressed that BIR cannot hide under the figure released by the Department of Finance (DOF) that the taxes collected from marked fuel products by customs duties amounted to more than P400-billion.

If anything, Tulfo said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) should first show records proving that all the marked fuel products of the BOC match data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which he said has global data showing all companies exporting oil in the country.

Failure of these records to match would signify that oil smuggling is rampant in the country despite government’s P1.9-billion yearly contract with Switzerland-based inspection services provider Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS), which ensures that marker is added to the fuel accurately.

As such, Tulfo asked BOC to provide records of the supposed 1,700 gasoline stations physically inspected by the SGS every month in the previous years to ensure accuracy.

Of the said 1,700 gas stations, Tulfo said BOC should provide data showing whether or not gas stations passed in fuel marking, stating, “I wouldn’t believe you kapag sinabi ninyo na lahat, 100%, ay pumasa sa inspection.”

In relation to this, Tulfo urged BOC to show what sanctions were imposed against the gasoline stations that failed the inspection because of non-compliance and how many were ordered to stop operations.

Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz failed to provide all documents asked by Tulfo because the supposed official responsible for supervising fuel markings was not present.

Tulfo asserted that the government should not renew its contract with SGS, which is set to expire next year, as he cited the terms of reference that SGS is required to transfer the technology and its formula to the Philippines after the end of a five-year contract.

“Ako po, bilang Chairperson ng Energy Committee, haharangin ko po ang renewal ng SGS. Because I see na useless po ito. Yung sinasabi niyo po tumaas ang koleksiyon ng tax to P450-B, eh tumaas po yung presyo ng langis e, natural pag taas ng presyo ng langis, tataas yung koleksyon. hindi po ba?” he said.

He maintained that SGS should follow the terms of reference, which would help the Philippines save billions of pesos annually.