MANILA - Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday urged the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to "withdraw, review, and rewrite" its memo directing online sellers to register and pay taxes during the coronavirus crisis.
Several agencies have issued various clarifications after the policy drew public criticism, but the exemptions mentioned by various officials have yet to be included on the BIR's guidelines, Hontiveros said in an online webinar.
"Dapat maging malinaw ang mga exemptions sa mga small online sellers... It should put the government's clarification in writing," she said.
"Mabuti pa sigurong i-withdraw, i-review at i-rewrite muna ng ahensya ang guidelines na nilabas nila," she said.
Online sellers earning less than P250,000 a year are exempted from paying taxes as the memo is meant to go after large digital services like Netflix, Amazon and Alibaba, BIR Deputy Commissioner for Operations Arnel Guballa told Teleradyo.
Online sellers earning less than P3 million annually are not required to pay value added tax, he said.
Last week, the Department of Finance said the memo was crafted to "encourage" online businesses to register with the BIR.
"The goal of this project is not to go after online merchants for unreported sales or unpaid taxes. We just want to encourage those who are engaged in online businesses to register with the BIR," said Finance Revenue Operations Group Undersecretary Antonette Tionko.
"Online transactions have increased for quite some time now, especially during the community quarantine period. That’s why we want to take this opportunity to remind them to register their businesses," she added.
Hontiveros said the government should be more "sensitive" to the needs of Filipinos who are trying to earn more income at a time when a lot of businesses have declared bankruptcy due to the COVID crisis.
"Napapanahon ba 'yung mga dagdag na requirement na gusto nilang ipasunod sa mga kababayan natin ngayong panahon ng krisis?" Hontiveros said.
Online sellers will have to shell out P2,260 just to register their businesses, she said.
"Alam ko gusto natin habulin ang malalaking negosyo online... pero sana wag natin pahirapan ang mga maliliit na seller na dumidiskarte ngayong panahong mahirap kumita," she said.
The registration of online sellers should be suspended during the COVID pandemic, Hontiveros said.
Online sellers will also have a hard time going to BIR offices to register their businesses due to the limited mass transportation, she said.
Should online sellers manage to go to BIR offices, it would violate the government's ban on mass gatherings, she said.