January 24, 2018, 9:36 am
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PH loses P300B/year from incentives

The government’s foregone revenues from the implementation of income tax holidays and other incentives with no time limits is estimated at over P300 billion annually, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

Citing 2015 data, Karl Kendrick Chua, finance undersecretary, said income tax holidays and special rates account for P86.25 billion of the revenue losses, while custom duty exemptions account for P18.4 billion. 

Exemptions from paying the value-added tax (VAT) on imports led to P159.82 billion in foregone revenues; and local VAT, P36.96 billion, although part of this tax will eventually have to be refunded because these are imposed on exporters, Chua said. 

He said these incentives totaling P301.22 billion do not yet include exemptions from the payment of local business taxes and the estimates on tax leakages. 

“On average, we gave away up to 1.5 percent of our GDP (gross domestic product) in income tax and custom duties exemptions,” Chua said. 

The enactment of the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act in 2016 has allowed the DOF to track incentives systematically, Chua said. 

The DOF is now preparing to introduce to Congress the second package of the comprehensive tax reform program, which focuses on reducing corporate income tax (CIT) rates while rationalizing fiscal incentives. 

Under package two, the DOF aims to lower the CIT rate to 25 percent, while rationalizing incentives for companies to make these performance-based, targeted, time-bound, and transparent.

Through this proposal, the DOF said the government would be able to ensure that incentives granted to businesses generate jobs, stimulate the economy in the countryside, and promote research and development; contain sunset provisions so that tax perks do not last forever; and are reported so the government can determine the magnitude of their costs and benefits to the economy.  

The DOF is targeting to submit this revenue-neutral proposal to the House of Representatives this January. 

Chua has pointed out that the government collects income taxes from large corporations and other private firms representing only 3.7 percent of the country’s GDP, or a collection rate of only 12 percent because of 360 laws that grant businesses tax breaks and other perks. 

He added that compared to other economies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines imposes the highest CIT rate but is among those at the bottom in terms of collection efficiency, resulting in a high rate but narrow tax base. 

The Philippines, he said, currently imposes a CIT rate of 30 percent but with a tax collection efficiency rate of only 12.3 percent, while Thailand’s CIT rate is only 20 percent but it collects almost triple, a 30.5 percent efficiency, that represents 6.1 percent of its GDP.  

Vietnam’s CIT rate is 25 percent but it collects even more with a 29.2 percent tax efficiency rate representing 7.3 percent of GDP. Malaysia’s 24 percent CIT generates a 27.1 percent efficiency rate in terms of collecting taxes, which is 6.5 percent of GDP. 

Under the Philippine tax code, all corporations, unless receiving fiscal incentives, have to pay a regular CIT rate of 30 percent or a minimum CIT rate of two percent of gross income beginning the fourth taxable year immediately following the year in which a corporation commenced its business operations, when the minimum income tax is greater than the regular tax. 

The optional standard deduction for corporations is 40 percent of gross income under the tax code.
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