DOF to press for minimum corporate income tax
As the government can only collect from big corporations’ profits, taxes equivalent to a mere 3.7 percent of the economy due to a wide array of exemptions despite high rates, the Department of Finance (DOF) is pushing for reforms in corporate income taxation.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the DOF plans to submit the second package of the comprehensive tax reform program to the Lower House when Congress resumes session on Jan. 15.
“Compared to other economies in the Asean, the Philippines imposes the highest corporate income tax (CIT) rate but is among those at the bottom in terms of collection efficiency. The Philippines currently imposes a CIT rate of 30 percent but with a tax collection efficiency of only 12.3 percent, while Thailand’s CIT rate is only 20 percent but it collects almost triple–a 30.5-percent efficiency rate–that represents 6.1 percent of its GDP [gross domestic product],” Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said in a statement.
The efficiency rate is the ratio of the actual take against potential collections.
“Vietnam’s CIT rate is 25 percent but it collects even more with a 29.2-percent tax efficiency rate representing 7.3 percent of GDP. Malaysia’s 24 percent CIT generates a 27.1-percent efficiency rate in terms of collecting taxes, which is 6.5 percent of GDP,” Chua added.
“So clearly, we have the classic problem of a high rate but narrow base. That is why the efficiency is problematic,” according to Chua.
In particular, Chua blamed the country’s “flawed and outdated” fiscal incentives regime, which has a total of 360 investment and non-investment laws giving away tax and other perks to investors.
“In terms of revenue, the country’s CIT has been increasing over time as a share of GDP and will continue to go higher because of the strong growth of the economy. However, I think this is deceiving because despite a 30-percent rate, we are at the bottom in terms of revenue efficiency,” Chua said.
A DOF document last year showed that the second of five tax reform packages would mainly be based on the results of the cost-benefit analysis of investors’ tax perks under the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (Timta).
A comprehensive review of the country’s tax incentives regime had been mandated under the Timta Law to give an overview of the benefits as well as the costs of giving away fiscal perks to investors.
The second tax reform package would bring down the corporate income tax rate from 30 percent at present to 28 percent in 2019 and 25 percent in 2021, similar to the rates in neighboring countries.
Fiscal incentives would be rationalized under the second package such that only those that were performance-based, targeted, time-bound and transparent shall be granted to investors.
As for existing tax incentives, a sunset provision of a maximum of five years would be put in place.
Also, the government would replace the 5-percent gross income earned tax to a reduced corporate income tax rate of 15 percent under the second tax package.
The second package would also “expand the coverage of the Fiscal Incentives Review Board to include all incentive recipients beyond government-owned and/or -controlled corporations” while also reviewing the tax incentives being given away by investment promotion agencies such as the Board of Investments, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and other economic zones, the DOF document showed.
In general, the second tax package would “enforce the minimum corporate income tax” as well as “simplify the corporate income tax system,” according to the DOF.
Based on DOF estimates, the P34.8 billion in foregone revenues from the reduced corporate income tax rates would be offset by a similar P34.8-billion gain from the rationalization of fiscal incentives during the first year of implementation.
“The lower income tax rate must be offset by enough claw back of incentives, hence revenue-neutral,” the DOF had explained.
Citing a Timta study, the DOF said the Philippine Economic Zone Authority has been granting the largest chunk of tax incentives among investment promotion agencies, followed by the Board of Investments.
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