MANILA—Despite the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic over the years, the Bureau of Internal Revenue said it reached its tax collection target of more than P2 trillion twice, a “first” in its history.
The BIR said it collected P2.186 trillion in 2019, and P2.083 trillion in 2021.
According to BIR commissioner Ceasar Dulay, it accomplished this after the bureau systems were digitalized, a setup that was installed before the pandemic hit.
The BIR has rolled out 14 projects for its digital transformation, he added.
“In 2019, we were mandated by (Finance) Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez to go into digital transformation. By the time the lockdown was declared in March 2020, we were more or less ready, and that is how we were able to utilize electronic systems,” Dulay said during the BIR’s 2022 National Tax Campaign kickoff program on Monday.
"We were able to take advantage of electronic payments and electronic filing, everything."
Based on BIR figures, 84% of the collection in 2021 were paid through electronic payment (e-payment) channels amounting to P1.75 trillion.
More than 1,979,000 were electronic filers, or 71%, compared to 814,422 manual filers (29%).
Meanwhile, 93% of taxpayers electronically filed their returns while the rest did it manually.
According to the BIR, P4.966 billion were collected under the Tax Amnesty Program, 137 cases were filed under the Run After Tax Evaders program, while 523 “erring establishments were issued closure orders”, and were ordered to pay P2.946 billion.
The bureau also doubled its manpower in 2021 with 3,273 signed appointments, compared to the 1,647 signed appointments in 2020.
According to the Department of Finance, the improvements helped to fund government projects.
“We are determined to return quickly to fiscal consolidation. In fact, we have already formulated a program to limit our budget deficit and limit our debt to GDP ratio. This is part of our transition plan to the next administration,” said Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez, who encouraged taxpayers to go digital in 2021.
Some business owners lauded BIR’s digitalization, saying it has made financial transactions easier and more accessible, especially younger Filipinos are now “digital native”.
While the BIR is celebrating its milestones, Dulay said there was still room for improvement.
“(Salaries) pale in comparison to the other government agencies, example to the judiciary, the Public Attorney’s Office. I’ll give you an example. The entry level of a lawyer in BIR is about P40,000, P42,000. The entry level of a public attorney is somewhere around P60,000, P65,000. My point is, give the employees the commensurate salary, commensurate to the efforts that they contribute to the government,” Dulay said.
Another business owner believed the BIR could also simplify their programs and reach out to people especially those in remote areas.
“Digitization has not reached them yet, but it is coming. Education, PR efforts would really be helpful. And I think something we share also with the farmers that we can really benefit from is to simplify further the process . . . If it is hard for us as an SME (small, medium enterprise), I cannot imagine more for a farmer,” said Kelly Go, Auro Chocolate, co-founder and managing directo.