Expert: Lifting bank secrecy a must in tax amnesty law
Expert: Lifting bank secrecy a must in tax amnesty law
Carlo S. Lorenciana (The Freeman) - February 25, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The lifting of bank secrecy is needed before the tax amnesty bill can be passed into law, a tax expert said.

Raymond Abrea, president of Asian Consulting Group (ACG), said that without lifting the bank secrecy, “violators would not feel threatened enough to avail the amnesty.”

“After all, why admit something when you can simply continue hiding it?” Abrea said.

His comments came following President Duterte’s vetoing of the Tax Amnesty Act of 2019 and calling of Congress to pass another general tax amnesty bill which would include the lifting of bank secrecy for cases of fraud.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean vetoing the General Tax Amnesty is wrong. In his veto message, the President noted the lack of bank secrecy as his reason for the veto,” the tax expert noted.

“Time and time again, the Department of Finance has reminded Congress that lifting the bank secrecy law is important. Yet they still pushed the Tax Amnesty bill through,” Abrea added.

Duterte earlier said that “a general amnesty that is overgenerous and unregulated would create an environment ripe for future tax evasion.”

He has called on Congress to include safeguards to ensure the truthfulness of asset or net worth declarations, as well as the automatic exchange of information.

“Without these measures, the government and ultimately the Filipino people will incur long term substantial revenue losses,” he said.

According to Abrea, the tax amnesty on delinquencies remains to be the worst provision of the Tax Amnesty Act, which is based on the basic tax assessed.

“Considering that the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue)’s assessments are usually large and unfounded, this means that the amnesty tax could remain unfair,” he said.

“To address this issue, examiners need to be made accountable for their assessments. They should collect a certain percentage of their assessment, otherwise the responsible examiners should be heavily penalized,” the tax expert explained.

Among the provisions vetoed by Duterte includes one-time declaration and settlement of estate taxes on properties that are in the name of persons who died or donors whose estates remain unsettled; and a provision presuming that estate tax amnesty returns filed in availing of the amnesty are true, correct and final, and complete upon full payment of the amnesty tax.

The Tax Amnesty Act of 2019 is designed to complement the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law. (FREEMAN)

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