SC stops BIR from requiring doctors to disclose fees

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday, June 3, stopped the implementation of a Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) order requiring doctors to disclose their service fees.

In a decision favoring the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), the High Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on BIR Revenue Regulations 4-2014, which ordered self-employed professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, to disclose their service fees to tax authorities. 

"We see a silver lining here. We, the medical doctors, have taken the high road toward developing a culture of change to help the government’s advocacy in paying the right taxes. We assure the government that we will continue to lead our ranks in practicing honesty and transparency," PCP president Dr. Anthony Leachon said in a statement following the SC decision.

On April 22, the SC also issued a TRO on the BIR order, but covering only lawyers' fees.

The order, signed by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima on March 3, took effect 15 days from its publication in a broadsheet on March 21.

It required self-employed professionals to submit on annual basis affidavits indicating their rates as well as their books of accounts and official appointments, indicating the names of their clients and date and time of meetings.

The move was in line with the BIR's campaign to "promote transparency and eradicate tax evasion among self-employed professionals." (READ: BIR sues head of doctors' association for tax evasion)

"These regulations are issued [to monitor] the fees charged by the professionals, aid the BIR personnel in conducting tax audit and boost revenue collections in the sector," the BIR order read. 

The BIR has zeroed in on professionals, filing cases against tax evaders and releasing advertisements shaming particular sectors.

One of the bureau's controversial ads showing a doctor riding piggyback on a teacher earned the ire of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA). A word war ensued between the camps and soon after, BIR slapped then PMA head Leo Olarte with tax evasion charges.

After Olarte stepped down as PMA president, his successor Dr. Minerva Calimag appeared with BIR Commissioner Kim Henares in an April 10 press conference to signify their reconciliation. Calimag urged her fellow doctors to file their returns before the April 15 deadline. The PMA and BIR also agreed to work on a website to help doctors better understand and compute their taxes. (Read: BIR, doctors' group reconcile, call for filing of tax returns)

PCP also expressed that month that it fully supported government efforts in increasing tax collection and promoting tax compliance by all citizens.

Leachon, on behalf of his group, thanked Henares for providing them the support they need to comply with their obligations. "We are humbled by the SC decision, finding the PCP position meritorious and justifiable," he said. – Rappler.com