I have been involved academically and professionally with international taxation matters since the start of my career and studies several decades ago. The world abounds with resources and institutions that provide information on taxation that is relevant to our tax ecosystem. Tax policymakers, such as the Department of Finance, tax legislators, think tank organizations, and academic institutions can access these international taxation resources to assist them in pursuing their respective mandates. Our tax collecting agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs, can generate ideas on global best practices to enhance their tax administration programs. Even our business enterprises with offshore operations can benefit from being up-to-date in global taxation developments.
There are both private sector and public or non-private global institutions involved in various tax policy and administration matters. The prominent private global organizations include such entities as the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, Institute for Fiscal Studies, Tax Foundation, International Bureau for Fiscal Documentation, Tax Justice Network, and the International Tax and Investment Center.
On the other hand, Non-private tax global organizations engaged in international tax matters include the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
On a regional level, government-led tax organizations include the Study Group on Asian Tax Administration and Research (SGATAR) and the Asean Forum on Taxation (AFT).
I will discuss first these two regional tax institutions with the intent of assessing if the Philippines, through the BIR or any other revenue-raising agency, can take a leading role in leadership in their affairs.
The AFT was established by the Asean Member States (AMS) in 2010 as a platform to address tax-related impediments and policies on regional economic integration. The AFT is mandated to support regional dialogue on taxation issues for regional integration. It is working to enhance information sharing and the regional implementation of an Automatic Exchange of Information program for the AMS. The AFT has conducted a study on the Asean Withholding Tax Structure that was discussed during the 10th Meeting of the Asean Finance Ministers (Meeting) in August 2023. During the Meeting, it was agreed that efforts towards the enhancement of withholding tax structures of the AMS can be made by implementing an online system and by sharing the WHT regulations of the AMS on the Asean Website. Furthermore, in the same meeting, there were discussions on the information sharing among AMS on excise data of alcohol and the implementation of digital stamp on excise taxation.
The opportunity and value of the BIR taking a leadership role in the AFT is limited. This organization is already staffed and administered by the personnel of the umbrella organization of Asean based in Jakarta, Indonesia. The participation of the BIR in this is at most the attendance of the meeting of the AFT. The impact of the activities of the AFT is not too significant and replicates a lot of the ongoing initiatives of the global tax organizations.
I will discuss about SGATAR next week in the continuation of my series of articles on this topic.
To be continued
Joel L. Tan-Torres was the former Dean of the University of the Philippines Virata School of Business. Previously, he was the Commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the chairman of the Professional Regulatory Board of Accountancy, and Tax partner of Reyes Tacandong & Co. and the SyCip Gorres and Velayo & Co. He is a Certified Public Accountant who garnered No. 1 in the CPA Board Examination of May 1979. He is now back to his tax and consultancy practice and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and his firm JL2T Consultancy.