More red tape and pain for self-employed filing tax

By Raissa Robles

Posted at Apr 10 2015 07:58 PM | Updated as of Apr 11 2015 05:17 AM

In all my years as a self-employed, it took me only two steps to file and pay my annual income tax. First, I filled out BIR Form 1701, and then I went to the bank where I wasted half a day to a whole day in order to:

ONE - Submit BIR Form 1701, along with BIR Form 2307 or the “Certificate of Creditable Tax Withheld At Source”

TWO - And pay the tax due.

Ouch.

As if that is not enough, this year the pain is so much more.

Not only have I spent three days trying to figure out how to pay taxes under BIR's new rules and downloading the forms.

To my dismay, I have found out that paying my annual income tax will take me six separate steps instead of two. I would have to:

ONE - Fill out the digital BIR Form 1701 then print these out

TWO - Go to the bank to submit BIR Form 1701 and pay the tax due

THREE - Scan BIR Form 2307 or the “Certificate of Creditable Tax Withheld At Source”

FOUR - Burn these scanned copies of BIR Form 2307 into a rewritable CD

FIVE - Go to a notary public to obtain an affidavit stating that the CD containing the scanned copies are indeed true digital copies of the “Certificate of Creditable Tax Withheld At Source”, using of course a BIR-certified format which is NOT EVEN MENTIONED IN THE “guide” that accompanies the nearly 60 megabytes file called eBIRForms Package that you are required to download.

SIX - Go to the BIR “collection office” to physically submit the CD, along with the affidavit.

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BURDEN ON SELF-EMPLOYED

I am not making these up. This is what a BIR official told me this morning when I visited the BIR Office along Quezon Avenue to ask how to go about paying.

I cannot understand why self-employed people like me have to go through Steps 3 to 6. For instance, ABS-CBNNews.com gave me perfectly legal physical copies of BIR Form No. 2307 or “Certificate of Creditable Tax Withheld at Source”. Now, BIR wants me to scan these documents, copy the scans into a DVD, go to a notary public to swear these are copies of authentic copies and then go to the BIR “collection office” to submit all these.

Why did they not just ask the corporations, which had issued these forms, to give their “contractors/contributors” digital copies of BIR Form NO. 2307 in BIR-prescribed DVDs? Why put the burden on the self-employed?

COSTLY COMPUTER SYSTEM

On top of this cumbersome and costly procedure, BIR is requiring me and every self-employed taxpayer to have the following in order to be able to pay my taxes this year:

The eBIR Forms package says my computer system should be capable of the following:

• Supported Operating System: Windows Vista or Windows 7;

• Hard disk drive space needed: at least 70 MB free space;

• RAM memory needed: Runs best on 2GB or higher ActiveX
components via Internet Explorer version 9 or 10;

• Java Run-time Environment version 1.7; and

• eBIRForms Package is best viewed in 1152 x 864 screen resolution.

What the eBIR Forms package forgot to mention is that self-employed taxpayers should also have:

A scanner

A rewritable CD Drive

A printer

In other words, BIR is making certain unwarranted assumptions about self-employed people – that they can all afford to upgrade to Windows Vista or Windows 7 from Windows XP; their computer has enough memory; and that they ARE NOT APPLE MAC USERS.

Sorry, self-employed MAC guys. You will have to scrounge around for a PC using Windows to file with the BIR.

I only learned about BIR's new requirements last April 7 - eight days before the annual tax filing deadline – through an e-mail from ABS-CBNNews.com editor-in-chief Isagani de Castro. BIR never e-mailed or wrote me. Nor did it issue a press release to newspapers on the matter.

The BIR official whom I talked to this morning said that the new guidelines were issued only last March 7.

It is true that online filing is nothing new – for big corporations and those doing business with government. But this is the first time that self-employed people like me are being required to do it.

MORE PAIN

So I phoned the two numbers provided: BIR HOTLINE at 9818888 or BIR RDO 39 at 373376. The BIR Hotline was unreachable. I was able to talk to someone at BIR RD0 39 but he confessed to me that he did not know much because he was just a call center agent. When I tried phoning again, I kept getting the recorded message - “The number you dialed is not in service at this time.”

For two days, I tried downloading the nearly 60 MB eBIRForms Package from the BIR website onto my PC. The download failed every time because of my spotty DSL connection.

I was finally able to download it using my Samsung Tab phone which can use a portable LTE wifi. To my dismay, I could not fill it up on my Samsung because it required a PC using Windows Vista or Windows 7.

What gave me pause was that the “offline eBIRForms package” is an executable file. Meaning, it is not a PDF that you simply fill out.

It is actually a program that you install in your computer and it makes changes in your PC. I asked my hubby Alan, who used to teach Journalism and the Internet, in Berlin whether I should allow such a file on my PC.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH IT

He told me no. And he lectured me on what's wrong with the new BIR digital requirement:

Number One - It assumes the taxpayer knows computers.

Number Two - It assumes the taxpayer has a specific flavor of Windows.

Number Three - It assumes the taxpayer has Internet access.

Number Four - It assumes the taxpayer uses Internet Explorer.

Number Five - It wants you to download an “Exe (Executable) Program” from an uncertified source but it doesn't tell you how it works.

Number Six - It hosts the Exe program without any hashes which are security marks that indicate you can download this program safely from the correct source. So a hacker could pretend to be sending you that program and giving you malware.

Number Seven - You don't actually know what the program will do once it's in your system. Will it poke around your system? Will it crash your computer?

Number Eight - There is no accountability for what happens if your entire system burns down because of this program.

Number Nine – BIR is asking you to do it one week before deadline.

Number Ten – When you roll out new technology like this, you give it a lot of time. Six months at the very least, not one week before. Even Microsoft takes years to launch a new product. What BIR is doing is launching a new product for a specific class.

MOCKERY AND TRAVESTY

Why are they making it so difficult for people who want to pay their taxes? This is a mockery and this is a travesty and this is an outrage. And there is no responsibility.

In closing, let me say this.

I believe that BIR chief Kim Henares has done a terrific job in BIR and I admire her for that.

This is but a misstep – and part of the growing pains–but it needs to be addressed quickly.

Personally, I am NOT going to pay my taxes next week in the new BIR prescribed form.

I think BIR should streamline its new filing and payment system first. I would like to do digital filing but not this way through an executable file.

I would like to be able to pay electronically by designating a specific account where BIR will simply withdraw what I need to pay.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.