Senate ratifies tax amnesty bill

MANILA — The Senate on Thursday ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the bill granting a one-time opportunity to those who have failed to pay their tax obligations for taxable year 2017 and prior years — including estate taxes, general taxes and delinquent accounts – to settle their liabilities.

Under the measure, taxpayers availing of the general amnesty will have the option to choose the rate between 2 percent of total assets or 5 percent of net worth or a minimum tax.

For this, the taxpayer must submit a Statement of Total Assets or a Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, along with a general tax amnesty return.

Taxpayers can also avail of a reprieve from all estate taxes, and instead, just pay 6 percent based on the decedent’s total net estate.

The measure also covers an amnesty on delinquencies.

Taxpayers can avail of 40 percent of the basic tax for delinquencies and assessments, which have become final and executory; 50 percent for cases subject of final and executory judgment by the courts; and 60 percent for those subjects of pending criminal cases.

Taxpayers will be given a year from the issuance of the implementing rules and regulations to avail of the amnesty, except for estate tax amnesty, which taxpayers could avail of over two years.

Those who avail of the amnesty program will be immune from payment of all taxes and the filing of civil, criminal, and administrative cases and penalties.

The bill also provides that any information and data provided shall be confidential and shall not be admissible as evidence in any proceeding, and imposes penalties for unlawful disclosures of tax amnesty returns and supporting documents.

A fine of PHP150,000 and a maximum jail term of 10 years await violators from the private sector.

If the violation is committed by a government official or employee, the bill imposes a fine of up to PHP1 million, a maximum jail term of five years, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

Through the measure, the government is expected to raise up to PHP41 billion, which will be used to finance crucial infrastructure projects and augment appropriations needed for the social mitigating measures under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

Senator Sonny Angara, who sponsored the bill at the Senate, hailed the ratification of the “pro-taxpayer” measure, saying the tax amnesty bill “would attract ordinary citizens who have long wanted to come clean, but feared prosecution, to finally settle their arrears.”

The chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee said the measure would also greatly benefit families, whose assets are frozen due to unpaid estate taxes.

“With the amnesty, heirs can now easily settle the obligations of their deceased loved one’s estate and could now enjoy the assets that will be freed for development,” Angara said.

Angara said the tax amnesty bill would also benefit the government.

“An amnesty, in many instances, could yield bigger amounts than the prosecution route,” he noted.

Angara said this is because many tax evasion cases often take decades to be decided in clogged courts, so much so that expenses incurred in the course of investigation, prosecution and litigation have already become greater than the unpaid taxes sought to be collected.

With the ratification of the Senate, Angara said the tax amnesty bill is now only a step away into becoming a law.

The House of Representatives has already ratified the measure Wednesday and just needed the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte to become a law.