Why BIR chief wants bank secrecy law lifted

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 25 2014 07:35 PM | Updated as of Mar 26 2014 03:35 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares on Tuesday clarified that her proposal to lift the bank secrecy law is for tax evasion purposes only and won't affect private individuals.

She said lifting the law will help the tax agency in its assessments in tax evasion cases.

“Nafa-file namin ang kaso maski wala ang bank secrecy law kaya lang, kapag nag-assess kami halimbawa ng P100 million, hindi pa namin nakikita ang bank account niyan. Kung makikita namin ang bank account, sigurado mas magiging tama ang assessment. ‘Pag nag-aassess kami kulang pa din kasi hindi namin nakikita ‘yung whole picture ng buong network,” she said on dzMM.

Several lawmakers expressed concern over the proposal, with Senator Grace Poe saying the public might lose faith in banks if their accounts are opened for scrutiny by the BIR.

Senator Francis Escudero, meanwhile, said the bank secrecy law and the Anti-Money Laundering Act already authorize the BIR to investigate certain individuals for tax purposes.

But Henares stressed that repealing the bank secrecy law should only be limited to tax matters, and should come with safeguards to protect private individuals.

“Kung titingnan niyo ‘yung batas ng Internal Revenue Code, mahigpit doon na hindi kami pwedeng magsalita. Napakastrikto ng batas na umiiral para sa BIR at ‘yung bank secrecy law, gusto lang namin doon sa tax evasion, hindi naman para sa lahat, hindi para sa pribadong sektor,” she said.

Under the bank secrecy law, banks and financial institutions are allowed to protect and keep confidential customer information from third parties even if these are government or tax authorities.