EDITORIAL - No more extension

EDITORIAL - No more extension

(The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2020 - 12:00am

After three extensions, the government can no longer afford to postpone the collection of annual taxes. Individual and corporate taxpayers have until June 14 to file their income tax returns. For those availing themselves of the amnesty on tax delinquencies, the deadline is June 22, with no more extension.

Officials of the Bureau of Internal Revenue explained that despite the pandemic and consequent restrictions on public mobility, the government urgently needs funds to finance responses to the coronavirus disease 2019 crisis, particularly for the social amelioration program for the hardest hit sectors.

Since mid-March, the government has already lost a substantial amount of revenue as a result of the economically crippling quarantine – not the taxes whose payment has simply been deferred, but significant amounts of value-added and excise taxes. The Bureau of Customs also lost revenue as airports and seaports slowed down or stopped operations.

Amid the need for physical distancing, and with large areas of the country including Metro Manila still under various levels of quarantine and lockdown, online payments are encouraged. Obviously, this is impossible in areas with weak or no digital connectivity, and for people without the necessary gadgets. The government may have to provide facilities and support personnel to assist people in electronic tax filing.

The BIR will have to specify how taxpayers can meet the deadline in the most efficient way, with the least hassle in this pandemic and the least risk to coronavirus infection. It must ensure that the procedures are as simplified as possible. Filipino taxpayers have a tendency to file at the last minute, so there must be measures in place to prevent the e-filing system from crashing in the final week, and especially on the deadline itself.

Tax payments were deferred to prevent COVID contagion. Now that the government feels it is left with no choice but to push through with tax collections, every effort must be made to make the process as safe and stress-free as possible.

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