Tax reform passage needed to fund social services -Pia

Improving the government’s delivery of services to Filipino families is the primary goal of reforming the country’s tax measures, Senator Pia S. Cayetano reiterated on Wednesday (August 21).

“We’re passing taxation measures not because it is being imposed upon us by any international body. We’re in a position where we are cleaning up our [own] house, not because we have to but because it’s the best thing to do,” Cayetano told media members at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay in Cafe Adriatico, hosted by journalist Marichu Villanueva. 

The senator currently chairs the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, which is tasked to tackle the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) as part of government’s effort to achieve its targets under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The CTRP includes proposals seeking to lower the corporate income tax (CIT) and rationalize tax incentives of businesses (Package 2); impose higher excise taxes on alcohol products and e-cigarettes (Package 2+);  reform the property valuation system (Package 3); and rationalize capital income taxation (Package 4).

Cayetano said she plans to conduct a hearing every week to discuss the tax measures. The panel’s discussion on hiking excise taxes on alcohol is set to resume next week, followed by two to three more hearings on e-cigarettes and vape products.

“I want to be sure that all stakeholders have a chance to be heard on record,” Cayetano noted. 

The senator said her primary duty as ways and means chair is to ensure that the government will generate enough revenues to fund its social services on health, education, and the environment. 

Package 2+ in particular seeks to bridge the current funding gap of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Program.

“Our UHC program is moving forward. But I really want to see it further funded. That’s where my passion is coming from to make these [tax reforms] happen. We want to be able to help our people feel the effects [of UHC],” Cayetano said. 

“At the end of the day, taxation is not just to raise funds. It’s also to protect the health of Filipinos,” she added.

Package 2: CITIRA bill

Meanwhile, the senator said she is also keen on proposals to lower the country’s corporate income taxes (CIT) and rationalize incentives given to investors.

“We have one of the highest tax rates in corporate Asia. That paints a not very inviting picture to investors. If we want to be competitive with our ASEAN neighbors, one thing that we can do is to reduce the corporate income tax rate,” Cayetano cited. 

She said the government is also losing revenues due to the gaps in our policies on granting incentives to different businesses.  

“We have so many agencies offering different kinds of [incentives] packages. Tayo lang pala ang may forever. In other countries, they put a timeline. And despite our incentives, we are still not the go-to place of investors in Southeast Asia,” Cayetano said, stressing the need to rationalize such grants. 

Package 3: reforming the Property Valuation System

Another tax measure awaiting passage is Package 3 of the CTRP, which seeks to introduce reforms to develop “a just, equitable, and efficient real property valuation system.”

Cayetano stressed that the country’s outdated property valuation system is “impairing our ability to conduct business well.”

“Imagine, hindi natin nalalagay sa tamang value ang mga [land resources] natin. That’s something that I do hope we can address through a tax reform measure,” she said. #

“Our UHC program is moving forward. But I really want to see it further funded.” – Senate Ways and Means Chair Senator Pia S. Cayetano