June 27, 2017, 10:06 pm
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P145B lost due to static gas tax

The government is losing an estimated P145 billion in potential annual revenues, enough to fund two elevated railway systems or even the stalled Laguna Lakeshore expressway due to failure to increase excise tax on gasoline.

The amount is also equivalent to about one percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). 

The Department of Finance said that gasoline excise taxes have remained the same in the last two decades and diesel products have been tax-free for the past 12 years. 

Karl Kendrick Chua, DOF undersecretary, said the government is now proposing to correct these flaws in the country’s tax system by adjusting fuel excise taxes and later indexing them to inflation, along with the proposals to lower personal income tax (PIT) rates and provide direct cash transfers to vulnerable sectors to offset the impact of the higher tax rates. 

At the same time, Chua said DOF is vigorously pursuing tax administration reforms at the Bureaus of Internal Revenue and of Customs to help raise sufficient funds primarily for the infrastructure buildup under the Duterte administration.

“But tax administration reforms are not enough to raise adequate funds to bankroll the Duterte administration’s agenda of high and inclusive growth, given the inherent flaws in the country’s tax system that require urgent correction, such as the non-indexation of tax rates to inflation,” Chua said.

He noted, for instance, the current gasoline excise tax rates have not changed for the last 20 years while diesel has been tax exempt for the last 12 years. 

Specifically, diesel and other products such as processed gas, denatured alcohol used for motive power, kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, asphalts and bunker fuel oil are presently exempted from excise tax rate.

Regular gasoline and other products such as lubricating oils and greases, waxes and petrolatum, naphtha, leaded and unleaded premium gasoline, and aviation turbo jet fuel are imposed tax rates as high as P4.35 per liter.

“These rates, which have not been corrected to account for inflation, have led to a massive foregone revenue loss of about P145 billion (in 2016 prices), which represents over one percent of the GDP,” Chua said.

“Our proposal to adjust the fuel excise tax to around P6 per liter merely updates the rates to current levels as this represents the cumulative inflation since 1997,” he added.

Chua said even with the adjustments, the retail prices of gasoline and diesel will still be much lower than the rates during the oil price shocks of 2011 and 2012, as global oil prices are down and expected to remain low in the few years ahead.

Chua noted the taxpayers will also get a relief from the impact of the fuel excise adjustments because of the lower PIT rates the DOF is proposing under its Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), which will more than offset the slightly higher transport, food and commuting costs.

For vulnerable sectors and low-income groups, Chua said DOF alsoproposed under the CTRP a targeted cash transfer program for the poorest 50 percent of households which includes cash transfer, the reintroduction of the PantawidPasada program that will provide fuel price discounts to public utility vehicles and a jeep modernization program to improve the engine efficiency of these vehicles.

“These proposed initiatives will cushion the impact of higher fuel excises on transportation, commuting and food costs for the poorest 50 percent,” Chua said.  

“With higher revenues from the oil excise tax reform, we can fund the massive public infrastructure program that is needed to reduce traffic congestion, improve connectivity and raise the economic productivity of Filipinos, especially those living in the countryside,” he added.

The DOF also said that the P145 billion can fully finance several PPP projects like, 1. LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension (P65 billion) , Cavite-Laguna Expressway (P35.43 billion)

And  NLEX-SLEX Connector Road (P23.2 billion). 

Chua said proceeds of the reform package will fund  the government’s big-ticket infrastructure projects 

Diokno said, though, that this unprecedented infrastructure spending can happen only if the government were to raise a lot more revenues to ensure the financial viability of such an ambitious program.

“This can only be done by implementing broad and deep reforms in tax policy and administration through the enactment of the Department of Finance (DOF)-proposed Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) now pending in the Congress,” Diokno noted. 

Dominguez said tax reform is needed so that the government can invest P1 trillion more each year on top of the current P1.3 trillion it invests in the domestic economy. Of the additional P1 trillion, he said P402 billion will be invested in education, P138 billion in health, P147 billion in social protection for the poorest of the poor, P194 billion in urban infrastructure and P188 billion in rural infrastructure.”
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