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Opinion

Memories of paying income, estate taxes

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Beating last Monday’s deadline to file income tax returns reminded me of a recent Comelec ruling. “Failure to file tax returns is not inherently wrong in the absence of a law punishing it.” In crafting that, Commissioners Aimee Ferolino and Marlon Casquejo were referring to 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985. Bongbong Marcos Jr. had been convicted of non-filing of ITRs as Ilocos vice governor then governor in those four years. Disqualifications under election and tax laws notwithstanding, they deemed Marcos Jr. eligible to run for president.

I wish I had Ferolino and Casquejo’s assurance of no penalty back in the 80s. Every year then in March, Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s controlled media flashed warnings of various punishments for illegally missing the mid-month deadline. Nobody dared run afoul of martial law, lest be imprisoned without charges, tortured and stripped of possessions.

I was employed in 1981 to 1983 in the newspaper of Marcos Sr.’s brother-in-law Ambassador Kokoy Romualdez. For three yearends my compensation Form W-2 showed that income tax was over-withheld every payday. All of us earners filed ITRs. Despite my tax overpayments, the BIR never gave me a refund or credit for the following year.

It was like the medieval age, when the king owned everything and heavily taxed the serfs on pain of flogging, being thrown to the dungeons and seizure of farms. Yet the lavishly-living royal family was tax-exempt.

Aside from income tax, also deducted from monthly salaries were SSS, headed by a Marcos crony kin; Medicare, headed by Marcos’ brother Dr. Pacifico Marcos; and Pag-IBIG, under Human Settlements Minister Imelda Romualdez Marcos.

A footnote to that work stint was that several employees and I were fired three days before Christmas 1983. In busting the new labor union, management dismissed the officers and five like me who falsely were accused of advising them. My wife was pregnant. Ninoy Aquino had been assassinated and the economy was collapsing from government over-borrowing and conjugal plundering. With inflation the following year Filipinos suffered price spikes of food, medicines and fuel. Infant supplements for my newborn disappeared from grocery shelves.

Most Filipinos who survived that harrowing period have forgiven those who caused and benefited from it. Still the basis to clear Marcos Jr. of tax culpability stirs up memories.

Fathers had a way then of inculcating taxpaying duty on youngsters. From age 13 in 1969, I as eldest son was assigned to line up at Quezon City Hall to get the real property and business tax assessments. I would return a week or two later to re-line up and hand over the check payments. Male friends and cousins of the same age did likewise for parents in Manila, Pateros and elsewhere. Sweaty errands in those days of no air-conditioning in buses and offices. A far cry from when Sonny Belmonte, upon becoming QC Mayor in 2010, started serving espresso in a cool special lounge for taxpayers. Tougher was the task of income tax paying for Dad every March; the queues at the BIR building snaked up to two blocks.

Only six years after Dad passed away in 1980 was the family able to pay the estate tax plus penalties and surcharges. We siblings inherited about P130,000 each, enough show money for me to take out a small home loan. There’s no escaping death and taxes. From retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio, Filipinos now learn that the law requires even plunderers’ heirs to pay income and estate taxes.

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