BIR-MDs set reconciliatory mood

‘I’m not against doctors’ – Kim Henares

BY MYLENE C. ORILLO

“I have nothing against doctors. What my job entails is really requiring everyone to pay the right tax, whoever they may be. It may a relative of mine. All of us should pay the right taxes.”

This was stressed by Commissioner Kim Henares in a joint press conference by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and representatives from the medical sector held on April 10, 2014 in Tomas Morato, Timog, Quezon City.

With less than a week to go before the deadline for filing of income tax returns, Com. Henares finally came face-to-face with the doctors who expressed their commitment to encourage their colleagues to pay taxes on or before April 15.

“We commit to help in the campaign for the medical professionals to pay the right taxes, which is what we should be doing as citizens of our country, and of course, in nation building,” said Dr. Minerva Calimag, president-elect of the Philippine Medical Association.

It can be recalled that the doctors cried foul over a tax campaign advertisement of the BIR that appeared in an ad portraying an image of a medical doctor as a tax cheat.

Com. Henares, however, clarified that the ad pertains to everyone, not doctors. They have an ad for online sellers and accountants, too and the purpose is to raise public awareness – to pay taxes and pay the right one, which has been very effective.

“Paying taxes is just one of the laws of the land so that we have a disciplined state,” said Com. Henares.

‘Human nature’

Henares said that it’s natural for people to feel that BIR’s approach is antagonistic toward them because they are getting money from them. But whether their demeanor is antagonistic or not, they [people] will still feel they are being antagonistic – it’s human nature.

“If you pay the right taxes, I don’t think you will feel antagonistic. But if you are not paying the right taxes, then, it’s normal for you to feel antagonistic towards us. But then it’s not my problem. My concern and responsibility is to implement the law and collect the right taxes. If other people have problems with that, it’s not mine,” said Com. Henares.

The BIR chief added that as of last year, there are 1.8 million self-employed sector (including entrepreneurs and different professionals) registered with the BIR, but only 24 percent of that filed their returns.

“There’s only one in every four people in that sector who filed the return and of those who filed the return we don’t really know how many of them are paying the correct taxes. But in the figure alone, there’s really a large gap in terms of compliance among this sector,” said Com. Henares.

If everyone pays taxes, Com. Henares said they can generate PhP 1.456 trillion – and that is the goal set up based on statistics and it can easily double if everyone would pay the correct taxes.

“Can you just imagine how many roads we can build? How many schools, houses, and hospitals we can build? And maybe our doctors need not go abroad because we can give them higher salaries,” said Com. Henares.

Gaps and plans

Dr. Calimag revealed that physicians actually do not want to be burdened by all the numbers, payment deadlines, and several requirements, however, she saw the need to address those concerns to help them in the future.

In collaboration with the BIR, the PMA plans to put up an MD website that will focus primarily on the above concerns. They are also planning to educate doctors through the help of BIR regional directors who are subject-matter experts on taxation.

“We can also come up with a software where we can download something online to compute our taxes so more or less we know how to compute them on our own, so these are the things we are going to work out together with the BIR,” said Dr. Calimag.

Admittedly, Dr. Calimag said there’s a gap in medical education because they are never taught how to compute taxes.

“In retrospect, we say that our medical education lacks education in terms of our physicians coping with the real world. Our curriculum is actually steep on the science of medicine, but good citizenship is something we should address in the curriculum as well,” said Dr. Calimag.

Commitment

Dr. Antonio Dans of the Philippine Society of Internal Medicine, who is also one of the panelists, reiterated that the doctors fought side by side, hand in hand to win the battle for tobacco companies to pay the right taxes.

Two years ago, the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) was at the forefront of the sin tax campaign. Apart from the campaign’s obvious health components and effects, PCP’s sin tax advocacy resulted in the increase in taxes imposed on tobacco and alcoholic beverages. The effort would not have succeeded without its partnership with the BIR, among others, it said in a statement.

“Now, we need to stand side by side again so that we ourselves pay the proper taxes. It’s a call to our colleagues and the rest of the profession. We promised to help heal patients. Now we need to promise as citizens, before being doctors, to help you,” said Dr. Dans.

In the past few years, the PCP has sponsored tax fora and workshops for its fellows, diplomats, and members aimed at fostering the understanding of the importance of the bureau’s collection efforts and compliance by its members as responsible citizens.

Meanwhile, Com. Henares assured the doctors that the BIR treats everyone fairly and similarly. If there are complaints of harassment, queries, comments, and suggestions, she encouraged everyone to call them at 981-8888 or email contact_us@cctr.bir.gov. ph, during office hours.

Also in attendance were Philippine Academy of Family Physicians President Dr. Alex Bienvenido D. Alip, Jr.; Philippine Pediatric Society President Dr. Mila Bautista; Philippine Rheumatology Association Dr. Leonila Dans, PCP regent Dr. Gina Nazareth, Philippine Society of Hypertension immediate past president Dr. Dante Morales, Philippine College of Surgeons President Dr. Jesus V. Valencia, and members of the media.

VitalSigns Issue 62 Vol. 3, April 1-30, 2014