Senator Francis Escudero has urged President Aquino to send to Congress a legislation lowering personal income taxes or simply certify as urgent one of the pending proposals seeking to reduce the income tax rates. According to Escudero, a “presidential certification will make the bill a priority measure and veto-proof.”
“The reality is that the input of the President is critical when it comes to tax measures. The lawmaking process stops at his desk. If he doesn’t like a bill, he won’t sign it. So if this is the reality, then it’s better to engage him,” Escudero said.
But Escudero, who used to chair the Senate Committee on Finance, added that historically, measures which presidents send to Congress are not always written in stone.
“Congress can fine- tune, improve and make it better. But at the very least, legislators would know the sense of the Office of the President. It can serve as an input, and a major one at that,” Escuder “Katulad nitong sa BBL, hindi naman parang rubber stamp ang Congress sa pagpasa nito. Ganyan din ang mangyayari sa mga panukalang magpapababa ng personal income tax rates.
Titingnan bilang gabay ang gusto ng Palasyo, and with this as basis, pagbubutihin ng Kongreso,” Escudero said.
“More than the specifics of the bill, what is important is the President’s message to Congress that ‘I want this measure passed,’” he said. “President Aquino should not let the opportunity pass to bring down one of region’s highest individual income tax rates.”
“Years from now, when the President goes back to Times Street, he should not look back with regret that he squandered the opportunity to lower the income taxes to their compassionate levels, “Escudero said.
The Philippines’ 32 percent tax bite on a monthly income of $1,100 (P51,491 at P46.81 exchange is one of the highest in the region. “And whatever left in the pay envelope when spent is subject to a 12-percent VAT,” Escudero said.
According to Escudero, he is in favor of lower rates, fewer brackets, simpler rules and faster process in personal income tax. “We should make it less complicated. Magbabayad ka na nga, mahirap pa sa dami ng forms.”
Escudero was the sponsor of a measure that exempts minimum wage earners in the private and public sectors from income tax, which later became Republic Act No. 9504. The law covers not only the basic pay, but also holiday pay, overtime pay, night shift differential and hazard pay received by minimum wage earners.
The veteran senator also shot down proposals to increase the 12 percent VAT rate to recoup whatever foregone revenues lower income taxes would cause.
“The VAT itself can capture the expenditure of a higher take-home pay. There is no need to increase the sales tax to offset any change in revenue collection resulting from the lowering of personal income taxes,” he said. “It’s no longer relief if what is deducted is soon recovered by a higher VAT,” Escudero said.
The issue here, he explained, is to adjust the tax rates to reflect the erosion in purchasing power caused by inflation because the current one was arrived at 18 years ago when average salaries were lower and prices of goods were cheaper.
“In 1997, pag may P300,000 ka makakabili ka na ng bagong kotse, kaya nga siguro 32 percent ang ginawang tax sa P600,000 annual income noon,” Escudero said.
Escudero was the sponsor of a measure that exempts minimum wage earners in the private and public sectors from income tax, which later became Republic Act No. 9504 in 2008. The law covers not only the basic pay, but also holiday pay, overtime pay, night shift differential and hazard pay received by the minimum wage earners.