Senator Sonny Angara has expressed his support for higher pay for employees and officials of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), and has filed a bill exempting the country’s largest tax-collection agency from the coverage of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).
“Better pay would allow the agency to hire the best and reward the honest in order to eliminate, or at the very least, minimize corruption in the agency. If we cannot attract competent and talented professionals, how can we expect our revenues to grow,” said Angara, chairman of the ways and means committee.
The government suffers from billion of losses due to tax leakages brought about by aggressive tax avoidance and evasion schemes, sometimes in collusion with corrupt revenue officials.
The BIR, which accounts for 80 percent of total government revenue, has collected P1.57 trillion last year, performing 97 percent against its P1.62-trillion target. This year, the agency sets its collection goal at P1.83 trillion.
“This is not just an anti-corruption measure, but an administrative reform to hike our collections. There should be performance benchmarks attached to any increase to ensure better services and improved accountability of the officials and employees,” the lawmaker added.
At present, government agencies that are exempted from the SSL include the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Insurance Commission (IC), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
With the SSL exemption, an entry-level accountant in SEC and IC receives P50,000 a month, whereas the same position in the BIR only gets P19,000 a month. For lawyers, the entry-level salary in the BIR amounts to P35,700, while in the SEC and IC, they are paid P53,750 and P66,520, respectively.
Angara’s Senate Bill 1314 seeks to add BIR to the list of exempted agencies. Senate Minority Floor Leader Ralph Recto and Senator Miguel Zubiri have also filed similar bills.
Based on latest data, of the 21,491 job posts available in the BIR, less than half or only 9,835 are filled.
BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay also recently revealed that some 300 of their employees have tendered resignation as a result of the agency’s campaign against corruption.
“With competitive salaries, we aim to attract young and idealistic professionals who can revitalize the BIR and improve tax administration and enforcement. Such exemption is long overdue,” Angara said.
The senator further stressed that BIR’s SSL exemption should be paired with the creation of a National Taxpayer Advocate Office.
Angara is the author of Senate Bill 308 that seeks to put in place a charter on taxpayer rights, and establish a National Taxpayer Advocate Office that will promote taxpayer rights and protect them against harassment and corrupt practices of BIR and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) employees.
The lawmaker also urged the BIR and BOC to strictly implement the Lateral Attrition Law which provides for a system of reward and punishment for officials and employees depending on their performance.
Under the law, officials and personnel of government collection agencies may be rewarded with financial incentives, bonuses and promotions for surpassing collection targets, but may be relieved or dismissed from their post if they fail to meet the goals.
Meanwhile, under the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, which was sponsored by Angara and signed into law last year, the BOC is mandated to conduct a compensation study with the end view of developing and recommending to the President a competitive compensation and remuneration system for its employees.
Apart from raising the taxman’s pay, Angara has long been advocating for higher take-home pay of ordinary Filipino workers by lowering income tax rates.