POSTSCRIPT / February 14, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Scarce BIR forms being sold at RDOs?

BETTER take the word of this battered do-it-yourself taxpayer seriously: Prepare early for filing your Income Tax Returns this year even if you think the April 15 deadline is still far off.

Unless you have an accountant or a tax consultant, you must move early, because the government has substantially amended the tax code, and revised the implementing rules and the relevant ITR forms – and the changes may cause confusing delays for us plain folk.

One thing that even old taxpayers should do is to check the availability of the new forms and the supporting documents that the new rules require. For some people, these details might become problematic in the last few days before the inflexible deadline.

In fact, it appears from where I’m now resting after grueling days of chasing people and tax-related paperwork that the Bureau of Internal Revenue itself may not be fully prepared yet — because the radical changes were dumped on it too close to the deadline.

The tax-collection process is supposed to have been streamlined and made fool-proof with computerization. That presumes an ideal situation where the entire system – the hardware, the software operating it, and the people managing and using it – is humming trouble-free.

Assuming that the system works for most online taxpayers, what about others who do not have computers, internet connection, and auxiliary gadgets (such as a printer) to interact online with the BIR?

The example I gave here last Sunday of the simple requirement for a Form 1701A for Individual Businessmen and Professionals earning less than P3 million a year will illustrate the point.

A taxpayer, say a senior, used to filing his ITR manually goes to his Revenue District Office to get the form, but is informed that copies are not available. In RDO-38 on West Ave. in Quezon City, for instance, the taxpayer is also told that the form can be downloaded and printed for him for P200.

Ano ba yan, Mr. President? The government creates an avoidable problem with its TRAIN-1&2, then smart operators make a business solving it for taxpayers?

Reader Edith R. Gonzales, among those who reacted to our previous Postscript, informed us that the Form 1701A that we were talking about was available online at:

We checked, and she is right. But what about those who do not have computers, wi-fi and printers? I remember the BIR once saying that senior citizens and others with good reason not to go online may file their ITR manually. But where are the forms?

Then, assuming one has the proper form, he might find filling it out like walking though dense forest with its new format, options and requirements. So again, we suggest: Study the new forms and rules, and prepare early.

As for the new applicable tax rates, Gonzales said that aside from the old Optional Standard Deduction of 40 percent, there is a new rate option under Form 1701A. She said:

“To avail of the 8-percent withholding tax option, the taxpayer must first register with the BIR if the income is recurring. This procedure is contained in a BIR Implementing Rules & Regulations. Since my income for 2018 is not recurring and one-time only, I opted for the 40-percent OSD, but will factor in the 10-percent withheld by the company that engaged me as a consultant. In 2018 under TRAIN-1 the withholding tax was at 8 percent but this was increased to 10 percent in January 2019  under TRAIN-2.”

Honestly, I hardly understood that. So I strongly suggested that we harassed taxpayers prepare early for the coming confusion. Or better still, the BIR should mount an aggressive early information campaign.

(Don’t you envy those people who never bothered to file ITRs all their lives? Not caught in the BIR radar, they are officially nonexistent and are never bothered by this yearly penitential scourge.)

 Tesda haunted by ghost training schools

RESPONDING to President Duterte’s call to rid government of crooks, an employee of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority has stepped forward and linked eight ranking officials to an alleged multibillion-peso fake scholarship and contract-rigging anomaly at TESDA.

In a complaint, TESDA specialist Armina Flora Tayko-Villanueva reported on Jan. 25 on her investigation of a TESDA board discovery of an alleged conspiracy in the failed bidding for the procurement of Starter Toolkits on Special Training for Employment Program or STEP.

The board reportedly found no sufficient reason to declare a failure of the bid since it saw a compliant winning bidder. Bidding committee chair Alvin Feliciano has resigned, reportedly expressing fear he might be dragged into the anomaly.

The TESDA officials were accused of being partial to another bidder. We have withheld their names while awaiting the endorsement by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to the President on what action to take.

The complainant alleged that a member of the group also conspired with some regional TESDA directors and officials to accredit training schools in Regions 1 to 4-A described as “non-operating entities.”

Those described as “ghost schools” include Scribe Fast Inc. in Pangasinan, Great Achievers Technical Vocational Institute, Eastern Sunrise Training Institute Inc. and  SRF Technical Vocational School Inc. all based in Region 3; Summerwind Skills Training Center Inc. in Cavite, Cavite Multi Skills Training Institute Inc. and San Antonio Skills Development Center Inc., all in Cavite.

Reports show that these schools have been closed for a long time. Other centers have since transferred location and are not entertaining students anymore.

The schools reportedly benefitted from the scholarship program by submitting training coupons and making it appear that they were operating and giving training skills programs when in fact they were not.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 14, 2019)

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