MANILA (UPDATE) – The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) is calling on the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to be fair in informing the public through its tax awareness campaign following the recent release of an ad portraying a doctor not paying the right taxes.
PMA President Dr. Leo Olarte said that while the group supports the BIR’s tax campaign, the newspaper ad that was published Sunday was not part of PMA’s “various consultations and joint information campaign activities” with the tax agency.
Olarte, in a statement released Monday, assured the BIR that the PMA will “not tolerate tax cheats among our ranks and we will act immediately if these isolated cases can be brought formally to our attention.”
“However, to project to the entire nation through the tri-media that medical doctors are tax cheats per se is absolutely unfair,” Olarte said.
In the half-page ad, a lady doctor, supposedly not paying the right taxes, was depicted riding on the shoulder of a lady teacher, who supposedly paid the correct tax.
The ad had a caption that said, "When you don't pay your taxes, you're a burden to those who do," and a link to knowyourtaxes.ph.
Olarte said the medical profession will never be a burden, and appealed to BIR Commissioner Kim Henares to further intensify PMA and BIR's existing partnership by doing more joint activities on taxations.
“We would also appreciate it if she [Henares] can temper BIR's public relation spinmiesters to practice their trade fairly by refraining from engaging in tactics that can be viewed as irritants and divisive to both our organization's common goals in nation building," Olarte added.
The ad also earned the ire of several netizens, with some claiming on Twitter that the ad was done in “bad taste” and an “insult” to medical practitioners in the country.
BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, meanwhile, defended the ad, saying it was not meant to criticize all medical practitioners but only those who are not paying the correct taxes.
“Ang sinasabi lang ng ad ay ganito: Mahiya naman ‘yung mga tao na hindi nagbabayad ng tamang buwis doon sa mga taong nagbabayad ng tamang buwis. ‘Yun ang message,” she told dzMM.
Henares, who admitted to approving the ad, said it was also not intended to single out doctors.
She said the advertisement had three versions and only one depicted a doctor not paying the correct taxes, which she revealed was based on actual return files.
“Hindi naman namin sinasabi na lahat ng tao sa [medical] sektor hindi nagbabayad kasi wala naman ding sektor na 100% compliant. Sinasabi lang ng message na sa mga hindi nagbabayad, pwede ba mahiya kayo sa mga nagbabayad. Tingin ko naman, kung kayo ay nagbabayad ng tamang buwis eh ‘di hindi dapat kayo ‘yung nasa ilalim,” Henares explained.
She also said that instead of being offended, doctors should view the ad as a challenge to prove that they are responsible taxpayers.
The BIR launched last month its 2014 tax campaign, which aims to raise at least P1.46 trillion before the end of the year.
The tax agency’s tax awareness advocacy carries the theme: “I love the Philippines, I pay my taxes right. It’s as easy as register, file and pay.”