End BIR corruption? Abolish it, says expert

MANILA, Philippines – The government has been aggressively working on revamping the country's tax system through a tax reform law – with a sequel on the way – but such efforts would go to waste if the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) continues to be on top of tax collection, an expert said.

Tax expert Mon Abrea said in a Rappler Talk interview on Wednesday, August 8, that for the government to maximize the benefits of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, it should consider abolishing the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Abrea noted that “corruption in the BIR is embedded in the system." (READ: 'Corruption meter': How gov't agencies fare in fighting corruption)

He cited the proposal of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proposal to replace the BIR with the National Revenue Authority (NRA). 

Under House Bill 0695, the NRA, to be headed by a chief executive officer, will be governed by a revenue board composed of 4 representatives from the government and 3 from the private sector. The board must be composed of experts in the fields of economics, accounting, law, business management, and other allied professions.

Abrea said if the bill is passed into law, all revenue examiners would be forced into retirement and "competent" examiners would be "rehired" based on "integrity, and a set of qualifications."

“Plus professional na talaga ang handling niya hindi lang commissioner na political appointee, mayroon talagang board na mamamahala sa pangongolekta ng buwis (Plus, it would be professionally managed, not just by a commissioner who is a political appointee but there will also be a board which would manage tax collections),” Abrea said.

Abrea also said the government should invest in the new agency and increase the wages of employees. He said the salary standardization law sets the pay of  examiners to only around P20,000, which makes them vulnerable to corruption.

“Alukin mo lang ng isang milyon ‘yan tiklop na 'yan, magpapa-party pa iyan. So nakatakas ng isang kumpanya ang bilyon-bilyon na sana nakolekta mo,” Abrea said.

(Offer them one million and they will crumble, and will even hold a party. So a company would be able to evade payment of billions of taxes that should have been collected.)

The BIR has been consistently getting flak due to corruption allegations. Previous surveys of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) revealed that the agency is perceived to be among the most corrupt, along with the Bureau of Customs. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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