Income tax-reform bill now considered dead–Speaker

Barring late endorsement from President Aquino, the bill lowering the country’s individual and corporate income-tax rates can no longer be passed by the House of Representatives this Congress due to lack of time, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Thursday.

While admitting that the government needs to tweak the income-tax regime to increase the take-home pay of ordinary workers, Belmonte said the lower chamber no longer has the time to pass the tax-reform proposal, now that lawmakers are focusing on the proposed 2016 P3.002-trillion national budget and the upcoming 2016 national elections.

“I am in favor of the proposal lowering income tax, but in a rational way; not in a way that we are all being rushed because this is popular with the electorates,” Belmonte said.

“I don’t think [we can pass it] as we only have few days left before the recess [to give time for the filing of the certificate of candidacy on October 12]; also I don’t think even you would want an election-driven reform. Also, the measure need to be passed here [in the House], in the Senate, in the bicameral conference committee and President Aquino to become a law,” the Speaker said.

Based on the legislative calendar, Congress will adjourn on October 10 and resume on November 3 before taking another break on December 19. The third and last regular session of the 16th Congress is expected to be cut short because of the 2016 national and local elections in May.

Belmonte said it is now up to the next administration to find solutions on how to increase the takehome pay of Filipino workers.

“Personally I could have wanted discussions on it, more indepth study. Let’s get momentum in its favor and then make it one of the first priorities of the next administration. Let them reap the reward of this,” he said.

On September 14, Malacañang, taking the cue from the Department of Finance (DOF), already rejected the passage in Congress of a long-pending bill mandating adjustments in individual and corporate income-tax rates, saying the government “cannot put our fiscal sustainability and credit rating at risk by doing piecemeal revenue-reducing legislation.”

The DOF has warned lawmakers that reducing the individual income- and corporate tax rates may cause the government to lose revenues totaling as much as 1.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, or P30 billion.

But amid strong calls to pass the tax-reform measure, House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman and Liberal Party Rep. Romero S. Quimbo of Marikina and Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said the DOF is currently reconsidering the tax-reform proposals as instructed by the President during their meeting on September 24.

According to Angara, he and Quimbo presented before President Aquino “various arguments and reasons for tax reform, from the level of individual households at the micro level and the benefits to society and the economy at large.”

In a separate statement, Angara said the Senate cannot approve the tax-reform measure “because under the Constitution, the House must first pass it. So if the House passes a bill then the Senate Committee on Ways and Means can also pass a version, since my impression is that the majority of senators support some form of income-tax reform.”

The House version of the measure seek the revision of income taxes for compensation income earners, self-employed, professionals and corporations through the simplification of tiers and rates, and indexation to inflation.




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