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BIR Can Collect Extra P433-B from Tax Policy, Administration Reforms

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The government can collect some P433 billion in additional revenues, representing 2.7 percent of the current Gross Domestic Product (GDP), by implementing reforms to fix inefficiencies and remove loopholes in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)’s tax policy and administration, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).

DOF Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua said eliminating these loopholes and efficiencies, however, would be difficult under the existing tax system because these problems are mainly a result not of weak enforcement alone but of “bad policy design,” which only the Duterte administration’s proposed Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) can solve.

We can potentially collect around P433 billion or 2.7 percent of GDP, based on 2017 prices, if we simplify, address inefficiencies, and remove loopholes in BIR’s tax administration and tax policy, as well as improve governance. This amount is already lower than the 2006 estimate of P726 billion given stronger tax administration in the last 7 years,” said Chua.

But we cannot accomplish this by just implementing reforms in tax administration because room for improvement in this area is limited. In fact, the key reasons for weak tax collection is the large number of tax exemptions and incentives that give rise to discretion and negotiations, and thus tax evasion and even corruption. Removing unnecessary exemptions and incentives will make the tax system fairer and easier to administer, thereby increasing collections,” he added.

Chua noted that there has already been a 40 percent improvement in tax administration efficiency since 2006 when the World Bank started measuring the Philippines’ tax gap.

This means that tax administration continues to be prioritized even when policy is still being considered in the Congress (via the CTRP bill),” he said.

Among the tax policy reforms proposed by the Duterte administration in Package One of the CTRP are [1] broadening the Value Added Tax (VAT) base while retaining exemptions for seniors and persons with disabilities, [2] updating the excise tax rates for fuel and automobiles, and [3] lowering personal income tax (PIT) rates to align these with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) benchmarks.

House Bill No. 5636 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN) was approved by the House of Representatives by a 246-9 vote with one abstention last May 31 before the Congress’ sine die adjournment. TRAIN comprises Package One of the CTRP. This bill, which had consolidated the DOF’s original proposal—House Bill 4774—with 54 other tax-related measures, seeks to make the country’s tax system simpler, fairer and more efficient.

The DOF said it hopes the Senate would act swiftly on the bill when the Congress opens its second regular session in July and retain the original features of TRAIN outlined n HB 4774.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the DOF will continue to hold dialogues with senators during the remaining weeks of the congressional break to explain to them the merits of tax reform package and convince them to retain the original DOF-endorsed version outlined in Cua’s HB 4774.

I’m very confident that our legislators are very aware of what is needed in the country, and are very responsive to what the country needs. I’m very confident that we will all sit together, and reason together, and come to a bill that will be good for country,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez said he hopes the Senate will retain the original features of TRAIN under HB 4774 to optimize the bill’s revenue gains, which were trimmed under the House-approved version.

We can live” with HB 5636, “but of course it’s better if we get more,” he said.

HB 5636 was passed after President Duterte had certified the bill as urgent, given that it was designed to help provide a steady revenue stream to his government’s ambitious high—and inclusive—growth agenda anchored on record spending on infrastructure, human capital and social protection for the poor and other vulnerable sectors.

In his letter to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, President Duterte said, “The benefits to be derived from this tax reform measure will sustainably finance the Government’s envisioned massive investments in infrastructure thereby encouraging economic activity and job creation, as well as fund the desired increase in the public budget for health, education and social programs to alleviate poverty.

Dominguez, who had earlier asked the President to certify the tax reform bill as urgent, said in his memorandum to the Chief Executive that this TRAIN bill is “expected to help reduce poverty rate from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14 percent in 2022, lifting some six million Filipinos out of poverty, and helping the country achieve upper middle-income country status where per capita gross national income increases from $3,500 in 2015 to at least $4,100 by 2022.”

In the same memo, Dominguez told Mr. Duterte of the “dire consequences” of the Congress’ failure to write a tax reform law.

The government’s strategy to embark on an aggressive expenditure program by raising deficit spending to three percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would lead to an “unsustainable fiscal position,” which, in turn, could trigger a credit rating downgrade possibly costing the government an extra P30 billion in annual debt servicing and P100 billion more in higher borrowing costs for the public.,” he said.

Financial institutions have welcomed the House approval of the tax reform bill. Deutsche Bank said that “Beyond its fundamental economic benefits, [the tax reform bill’s] passage would send investors a strong signal that the administration has the political will to pass unpopular laws to institute long-term structural economic reforms.”

Nomura said “the timeliness of the vote and the decisive result again underscore the strong priority that Duterte places on the economic reform agenda and his strong control over Congress.

Moody’s Investors Service said in a credit outlook that the House approval of HB 5636 will boost the Philippines’ credit rating because it will provide government with a fresh revenue stream and showed it can put reforms in place despite political controversies.

Fitch Ratings said the speed with “which the bill passed through the House—and President Duterte’s intervention to give it a push over the line—suggests that tax reform is a priority for government.” The tax reform package approved by the House, it said, will “widen the tax base and boost revenue.” (DOF)

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Improving Access And Financial Literacy Are Key To Financial Inclusion In PH—PIDS Study

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Improving financial literacy and broadening access to financial institutions like banks and insurance companies, especially in the rural areas, are key to achieving financial inclusion in the country.

This was according to a study by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) on factors affecting financial inclusion in the Philippines. The research showed that more educated individuals living in urban areas, wherein most financial institutions like banks are situated, are more likely to have savings and insurance than their less educated counterparts in the rural areas.

The World Bank defines financial inclusion as a situation where people and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs. Financial products and services include payments, savings, credit, and insurance.

Authors Gilberto Llanto and Maureen Ane Rosellon, PIDS president and research associate, respectively, emphasized that access to finance allows the poor to accumulate assets like savings and insurance to protect them from potential risks and shocks, and to invest in income-generating activities.

However, access to financial products and services remains a big challenge in the Philippines as shown in the latest data of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas(BSP). According to BSP, only about 43 percent of Filipino adults have bank savings while 72 percent of those who borrow, transact with informal financial institutions. Also, only about 30 percent of small and medium enterprises have formal lines of credit and/or bank loans.

One of the main factors that limits people’s access to formal financial institutions, according to Llanto and Rosellon, is their remote location in the rural areas. “For example, data on bank network vis-à-vis population on a regional level indicate a great difference between urban areas like the National Capital Region (ARMM) and highly rural regions like the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),” they explained. Citing statistics from BSP, they noted that the number of banks per 10,000 adults in the NCR is estimated at 3.6 in 2010 and 2015 compared to only one bank per 100,000 adults in ARMM for the same period.

“Due to the absence of banks, people would usually just keep their money at home or join informal group savings in the community, such as rotating savings and credit associations locally called “paluwagan”, the authors concluded.

Also, data from BSP show that majority of adults (about 70%) find pawnshops as the nearest and easiest to reach among financial products and service providers. Likewise, nonstock savings and loan associations, payment centers, and remittance agents take the shortest time to reach at 17 to 18 minutes. The cost of a round-trip travel to these establishments is also the lowest, at PHP 31 to PHP 37.

Llanto and Rosellon said the first step to encourage people to access banks and other formal financial institutions is to improve people’s education. “A higher level of education increases the likelihood of saving and borrowing from a formal financial institution. Educational attainment can be an indicator of the knowledge and level of understanding of credit options and opportunities, and confidence to apply for a loan,” they pointed out.

Furthermore, the authors highlighted the importance of looking at potential barriers to access, which includes, among others, cost or proximity to providers of financial services.

Meanwhile, banks have recently introduced electronic banking (e-banking) to the market as a proper response to global innovations in banking. According to the study, e-banking has started to penetrate “unbanked” markets. Still, poor people in far-flung areas are unable to access this technology as it requires suitable electronic devices and strong Internet connection.

“Although mobile financial services have taken a foothold in the financial markets, the majority of retail transactions by individuals and businesses in the Philippines are still done in cash,” the authors stated. They cited a 2015 report by Better Than Cash Alliance showing that only 1 percent of the 2.5 billion retail payments per month in the country were done electronically.

This press release is based on the PIDS discussion paper titled “What Determines Financial Inclusion in the Philippines? Evidence from a National Baseline Survey”.

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BSP Sees 3.4-4% Inflation for January

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Higher oil and commodity prices are seen as upside risks for Philippines’ inflation rate in January 2018 and bring the rate between 3.5 and four percent.

In a statement, the central bank said its Department of Economic Research considered the impact of higher fuel prices overseas and weather-related disturbances in the country as factors that would push up prices.

“In addition, higher excise taxes on fuel, sugar sweetened beverages with the implementation of the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) this month, would lead to additional upward price pressures,” it said, referring to the first package of the tax reform program that is being implemented starting Jan. 1 this year.

“The increase in prices could be partly offset by lower electricity rates in Meralco-serviced areas for the month,” it added.

The government has a two to four percent inflation target for 2017-19.

Last year, inflation averaged at 3.2 percent, higher than year-ago’s 1.8 percent rate but still within the government’s target range.

Last December alone, inflation was flat at 3.3 percent but higher than year-ago’s 2.6 percent.

Philippine monetary officials forecast this year’s inflation to average at 3.4 percent.

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Improving Access and Financial Literacy Are Key to Financial Inclusion in PH—PIDS Study

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Image Source: lawyer24h.net

Improving financial literacy and broadening access to financial institutions like banks and insurance companies, especially in the rural areas, are key to achieving financial inclusion in the country.

This was according to a study by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) on factors affecting financial inclusion in the Philippines. The research showed that more educated individuals living in urban areas, wherein most financial institutions like banks are situated, are more likely to have savings and insurance than their less educated counterparts in the rural areas.

The World Bank defines financial inclusion as a situation where people and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs. Financial products and services include payments, savings, credit, and insurance.

Authors Gilberto Llanto and Maureen Ane Rosellon, PIDS president and research associate, respectively, emphasized that access to finance allows the poor to accumulate assets like savings and insurance to protect them from potential risks and shocks, and to invest in income-generating activities.

However, access to financial products and services remains a big challenge in the Philippines as shown in the latest data of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas(BSP). According to BSP, only about 43 percent of Filipino adults have bank savings while 72 percent of those who borrow, transact with informal financial institutions. Also, only about 30 percent of small and medium enterprises have formal lines of credit and/or bank loans.

One of the main factors that limits people’s access to formal financial institutions, according to Llanto and Rosellon, is their remote location in the rural areas.

“For example, data on bank network vis-à-vis population on a regional level indicate a great difference between urban areas like the National Capital Region (ARMM) and highly rural regions like the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),” they explained.

Citing statistics from BSP, they noted that the number of banks per 10,000 adults in the NCR is estimated at 3.6 in 2010 and 2015 compared to only one bank per 100,000 adults in ARMM for the same period.

“Due to the absence of banks, people would usually just keep their money at home or join informal group savings in the community, such as rotating savings and credit associations locally called “paluwagan”, the authors concluded.

Also, data from BSP show that majority of adults (about 70%) find pawnshops as the nearest and easiest to reach among financial products and service providers. Likewise, nonstock savings and loan associations, payment centers, and remittance agents take the shortest time to reach at 17 to 18 minutes. The cost of a round-trip travel to these establishments is also the lowest, at Php 31 to Php 37.

Llanto and Rosellon said the first step to encourage people to access banks and other formal financial institutions is to improve people’s education. “A higher level of education increases the likelihood of saving and borrowing from a formal financial institution. Educational attainment can be an indicator of the knowledge and level of understanding of credit options and opportunities, and confidence to apply for a loan,” they pointed out.

Furthermore, the authors highlighted the importance of looking at potential barriers to access, which includes, among others, cost or proximity to providers of financial services.

Meanwhile, banks have recently introduced electronic banking (e-banking) to the market as a proper response to global innovations in banking. According to the study, e-banking has started to penetrate “unbanked” markets. Still, poor people in far-flung areas are unable to access this technology as it requires suitable electronic devices and strong Internet connection.

“Although mobile financial services have taken a foothold in the financial markets, the majority of retail transactions by individuals and businesses in the Philippines are still done in cash,” the authors stated.

They cited a 2015 report by Better Than Cash Alliance showing that only 1 percent of the 2.5 billion retail payments per month in the country were done electronically.

www.pids.gov.ph

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BMI Research Forecasts Sustained 6% Level Growth for Philippines

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The research subsidiary of Fitch Group projects the sustained robust expansion of the Philippine economy on back of the government’s infrastructure program, favorable demographics and increased trade with China.

BMI Research eyes a 6.3 percent growth in 2018 and 6.2 percent in 2019 – – levels that the research entity considers “respectable.

These are lower than the 6.7 percent output, as measured by gross domestic product (GPD), that the economy posted in 2017.

“We emphasize that the 6+% GDP expansion is still strong by regional and historical standards and this will be supported by positive demographic trends, a strong public infrastructure drive, and deepening economic cooperation with China,” the study said.

However, BMI Research cited as risk to growth the deteriorating business environment, citing that the seven percent growth in the third quarter of 2017 will “unlikely to continue as leading financial market indicators were showing signs of fatigue while the business environment has been deteriorating.”

This deterioration, it said, is expected to hamper further improvement on private sector investment in the next quarters.

It noted that growth of fixed capital formation declined to 10.3 percent in 2017 from year-ago’s 25.2 percent, with construction rising only by 5.7 percent from 2016’s 15.1 percent and durable equipment by 12.2 percent from year-ago’s 34.5 percent.

Amidst these risks, BMI Research remains optimistic on the domestic economy’s growth, which is expected to get additional lift from the tax reform program, the first package of which is for implementation starting January this year.

Package 1 of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law cuts personal income tax in the country, making workers’ first Php250,000 annual income tax free. Impact of this on government revenues will be countered by excise tax hikes on fuel and sugar-sweetened beverages, among others.

The first tax reform package is estimated to generate around Php82.3 billion additional revenues for this year alone, and this, the study said, is a plus on the government’s program to increase infrastructure investment.

“This will likely go some way in improving the country’s poor infrastructure, which has long prevented the Philippines from reaching its growth potential,” it added.

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