Wake Up, Philippines!

BIR hunting season officially open!

Posted in BIR, Governance, Graft and Corruption by Erineus on March 21, 2009

CTALK By Cito Beltran Updated March 13, 2009 12:00 AM

I don’t know how the United States does it, but in the Philippines, it seems that the BIR has already declared their hunting season open! In fact things are so bad that some businessmen are now more afraid of certain BIR personnel than kidnappers.

Participants in a recent tax forum expressed shock when a top official of the BIR casually said that as far as they are concerned, they are willing to turn a blind eye to whatever means BIR agents use as long as the agency meets their revenue targets or collection quotas. In response to the pressure and the desperation to hit targets, the BIR has foregone restraint and accountability among the good and the bad within its ranks.

Is this a confirmation that the Arroyo government is desperate for money and desperate times require desperate measures? If this is the mindset of the BIR commissioners, then they are welcome to use the tag line: “QUOTA AT ANY COST”.

Filipinos traditionally lament during March and April because it’s time to pay income tax, but this year there has been a marked increase in the number of harassed taxpayers who have decided to go to tax lawyers and the media to complain about letters and inquiries from the BIR that have escalated to downright shakedowns.

But more than just complaining, people have started to record letters, meetings and conversations with BIR officers and representatives. It would be interesting to find out whose faces will show up on security tapes in various restaurants, spas, country clubs as well as offices if the Senate investigates the situation.

Unlike in the past where “victims” keep quiet and simply pay the tax and bribe the taxman, the victims are now openly talking about the shakedowns and the price of compromise.

The corrupt are now asking for an average of P350,000 not to do their job and after a couple of weeks, the reported average rate of accepted bribe is P200,000. There are no distinctions made between feast and famine and if the “agent” gets transferred, the thieves have a referral system.

In short, corrupt agents trick the sinner or the ignorant into believing that their problems are solved once they pay. What they did not realize was they simply enrolled themselves as perpetual hostage to corruption.

Clearly, there is a national phobia of the BIR for the longest time they have promoted and enlarged the myth that “You don’t mess with the BIR”. Because of the G-men characterization, it becomes all the more easier to make delinquent taxpayers cower to corrupt arrangements.

In a recent tax seminar conducted by an ex-taxman now working for SGV accountants, the speaker warned his audience: “Whatever you do, don’t antagonize the people from the BIR, because even if you are compliant they will always find some way to get at you”. Can you believe that statement?

Considering the fact that the Filipino taxpayer is the principal partner of the BIR in meeting their revenue targets, shouldn’t we promote an image and a relationship between taxpayer and tax collector that is cooperative and supportive instead of threatening and combative?!

The Filipino taxpayer is entitled to Respect, Compassion and Understanding.

Respect the fact that we all work hard for the money the BIR needs, wants and demands. Be compassionate about the taxpayers’ reluctance to part with money that could spell the difference for a better education, a better house to live in or an opportunity to enlarge their business. Understand that we are not knowledgeable about the tax system and it is the BIR’s obligation to extend the assistance and the courtesy to people as their share in working for the money.

Those who persist in creating the monster and the negative myth to promote their illegal agenda should start realizing that the once untouchable, corrupt civil servants and officials are now targets of exposés, lawsuits, cases with the ombudsman, pursued and arrested in foreign countries and in extreme cases judged and executed right in front of their families.

On the other hand, those who would rather pay ransom have no right to complain unless they are willing to come clean and correct their situation. It is also high time we go after accountants and auditors who sign off the statements as correct and then sell out their clients when they don’t get the rates they want! Imagine telling your client to cheat and then feel offended when you are cheated!

The problem is that the Department of Finance has not put up a “sanctuary system” where the penitent and negligent taxpayer can enroll under the supervision and protection of the DOF as well as the DOJ or the NBI who can then pursue an investigation and the filing of cases against extortionists. Those who have tried to play straight had to deal with threats and harassment! Right now an amnesty program will insure that the government gets the money but we still have to get the crooks out of government.

Today we clearly have a developing situation where the BIR is under the gun to produce money by any means available to the agency but at the expense of the citizens, both the innocent as well as the guilty. Instead of pushing the people too far or against the wall, Secretary Gary Teves and the BIR should ask the people for better solutions.

Apparently the Arroyo administration has started to believe their own propaganda and refuses to accept the closure of many businesses and ignores the reality of several years of bad business as well as the world wide economic crisis.

Ultimately, “Quota at any cost” may cost this government much more than they bargained for.

View previous articles of this column.

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=448031&publicationSubCategoryId=64

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