Lawmakers are making a final push for the passage of the income tax-reform bill, this time by presenting a more palatable version of the measure to President Aquino.
The leadership of the 16th Congress will meet Mr. Aquino to convince him to certify a bill that only seeks to adjust the levels of taxable income to inflation, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Tuesday.
This would be the first phase of the tax-reform package.
Belmonte, in a text message, said he and Senate President Franklin M. Drilon will meet the President
“Senate President Drilon is currently abroad. But we may schedule the meeting with President Aquino during this [Congress] break, which is from October 10 to November 2,” the Speaker added.
Belmonte said now is the right time to readjust the tax bracket to inflation to increase the take-home pay of ordinary workers.
“With this proposal, we are [only] giving the applicable value of these things at the time the National Internal Revenue Code was approved [in 1997],” he said.
Liberal Party Rep. Romero S. Quimbo of Marikina City, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said the P500,000 level, for instance, which is currently taxable by 32 percent, needs to be adjusted, considering that this amounts to P1.2 million today.
“There’s a lot of backroom talks between the Senate President and the Speaker to convince the President to adjust it [tax bracket] to inflation,” he said.
“The Speaker and the Senate President have come to a common position, so the next step is really to talk to the President and present what the options are,” Quimbo added.
Quimbo, citing the Department of Finance, said the proposal may cause the government to lose revenues totaling as much as 1.5 percent of the country’s GDP, or P30 billion.
“There’s still chance that this proposal will be passed at the lower chamber this 16th Congress. It is the first of several steps under our comprehensive package that would benefit both the government and the people,” Quimbo said.
Quimbo said included in the comprehensive package are the so-called revenue-generating measures, such as the bill raising the excise tax on fuel; measure simplifying tax requirements of professionals and entrepreneurs; reduction of tax rates for both individuals and companies; measure overhauling the value-added tax system; Rationalization of the Mining Fiscal Regime bill; and bill imposing specific tax on sodas and other sweetened beverages.
“Speaker Belmonte and Senate President Drilon have a common position that, first, tax reform cannot take place piecemeal. Just like what we’ve been saying, it has to be a package or programmatic. The entire thing has to be overhauled. But it does not mean that we cannot take steps toward that objective, meaning we have the first phase,econd phase, third phase [to complete the comprehensive package]. So that is where we convinced them and they will present that with the President,” Quimbo said.
When asked if it is a compromise between Congress and the Executive after Malacañang rejected the bill lowering the income-tax rates, Quimbo said, “Not exactly because that has really been my proposal as a first of several steps.”
Malacañang, taking the cue from the Department of Finance, has 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.”