It has been ages since I last posted here…Been preoccupied with work as well as filing United States AND Philippine tax returns. For people not in the know, expatriates in the US are required to pay US federal and state income taxes (the amount depends on your expatriate arrangement with your company) as well as Philippine income taxes. The only consolation is that the taxes here in the US are given back to the taxpayers in terms of education, excellent freeways, magnificent state and national parks, utilities etc.
I can’t say the same thing for the Philippines though… I treat every peso I ever earned for the last 14 years as precious so giving up 35% of that is not an easy thing to do especially if I don’t see things coming back in the form of infrastructure improvements, health care and basic services. I am one of the millions who get taxed automatically as part of their payslips. What hath our tax pesos wrought?
Economics 101 tells us that the income tax is the primary revenue stream of the government and is a very delicate economic lever. So before we start bashing the Philippine Government for wasting taxpayer money, we have to ask first this question: Do Filipinos pay their fair share of the tax burden to the government?
“Explain before you complain…” – Joey de Leon
In order for us to start nailing people for wasting tax dollars (and I’ve got my trusty hammer ready for some serious nailing) with the appropriate moral footing, we need to check if the government has been receiving the right taxes from the populace. I guess the answer is a resounding “No” even if all that we have right now is anecdotal evidence. The government has always been short in terms of tax collections and have been looking for innovative ways to improve its revenue base.
What can be done to improve the collections? Some thoughts:
Target Professionals: Every “Nanay” or “Tatay” would like their unico hijo or hija to finish a “karrera”. That is why most parents would like their kids to pursue a lengthy (and not to mention expensive) career as a doctor or a lawyer. Nothing wrong with this as these are both noble professions. The problem starts when these professionals fail to issue receipts or declare their full income for the taxman. Their logic is crystal clear: “Ang laki ng nagastos namin sa kolehiyo kaya kailangang makabawi naman kami.” I can understand this and most doctors and lawyers are honest enough to pay taxes for their full income. What about the rest?
Target The “Big Fish”: This has been the proverbial vision of tax collectors. But the question remains: Who are the “Big Fishes”? Here’s a simple suggestion. The BIR should publish the list of top taxpayers per city/province based on official tax payments to the government and then offer a huge reward to anyone who provides information on people who should be on the list but aren’t or whose tax payment is unusually low. I am of the opinion that for the right price, people will provide useful information. For example, Jamby Madrigal has been fighting tool and nail for her aunt’s inheritance (reminds me of a shark feeding frenzy I saw once on Animal Planet). The expectation is that she will pay a sizable inheritance tax on whatever she gets and if her name is not on the list…ALERT! ALERT! Big Fish sighted off the port bow!
Get Medieval On Non-Tax Payers: We all know who these guys are…This is the guy or girl with the loudest voice who shouts slogans and hurls charges of government neglect or government incompetence day in and day out. Hey, I’m not protecting the government. There IS government neglect and government incompetence due to the people in power with IQs lower than sea slugs…However, this sounds so hollow…So plastic since most of these loudmouths don’t pay taxes. We know who these guys are: (a) men of the cloth e.g. priests and bishops who shout to the high heavens and yet are tax exempt by virtue of their religion, (b) Communist neanderthals and their sympathizers whose life-long quest to establish a Communist state remains unfulfilled – instead they resort to giving radio interviews from their mountain hideouts while blowing up mobile phone towers on the side, (c) squatters who demand housing, food, health care and other services whilst cheating the government of taxes due to the undergound economy i.e. the classic “kabig lang ng kabig” instead of “tulungan mo ang iyong sarili” – a mentality prevalent in a culture of mendicancy, (d) entertainers who squeeze the life blood of the people who idolize them by not paying their taxes e.g. Nora Aunor, German “Master Showman” Moreno, Judy Ann Santos etc. (e) lawmakers and politicians – enough said, everyone KNOWS they cheat on their taxes. How do we marginalize these folks? Simple. Strip them of their rights until they pay up. Priest and religious groups will not be allowed to collect donations or be tax exempt on their vast land holdings until they pay up…Hell, even Queen Elizabeth II pays taxes so why should these guys be exempt. Just imagine the windfall from all of the earnings of the Iglesia ni Cristo, El Shaddai etc. Impose a news blackout on Joma, Ka Roger and their ilk since they’ve forfeited the right to communicate to the people by not recognizing the government of the Philippines. Let them talk amongst themselves…Rescind the right to vote for squatters whose political power base stems from the fact that whoever has the squatter vote wins in the elections – classic example is Binay of Makati…Ban the movies or CDs of non-paying entertainers. Impeach or evict tax evaders from the halls of Congress.
GRRRRRRR!!!! It must be something about viewing my tax returns that makes me want to go nuclear on people who cheat on theirs…Maybe it’s because I don’t have a choice in the matter – my taxes are automatically deducted from my salary…Sigh!