Income tax holidays and other incentives with no time limits enjoyed mostly by large businesses is costing the government over P300 billion annually in foregone revenues, according to the Department of Finance (DoF).
Citing 2015 data, Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua said income tax holidays and special rates account for P86.25 billion of the revenue losses, while custom duty exemptions account for P18.4 billion.
Exemptions from paying the value-added tax (VAT) on imports led to P159.82 billion in foregone revenues; and local VAT, P36.96 billion, although part of this tax will eventually have to be refunded because these are imposed on exporters, he said.
He said these incentives totaling P301.22 billion do not yet include exemptions from the payment of local business taxes and the estimates on tax leakages.
In terms of income tax incentives, the government, in effect, gave away P61.33 billion to companies in 2011, which went up to P88.17 billion in 2014.
Customs duty exemptions, however, have gone down from P82.97 billion in 2011 to P38.04 billion in 2014 owing to the various free trade agreements signed by the Philippines with other countries.
“So on average, we gave away up to 1.5 percent of our GDP in income tax and custom duties exemptions,” Chua said.
The enactment of the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (TIMTA) in 2016 has allowed the DoF to track incentives systematically, Chua said.
TIMTA data show that in 2015, income tax holidays accounted for P53.77 billion in foregone revenues; special rates, P32.48 billion; and import duty incentives, P18.14 billion or a total of P104.40 billion in tax incentives given away by the government, which would have accounted for almost 5 percent of national government revenues and 0.78 percent of GDP, Chua said.
Data for the VAT and local business taxes are not mandated under the TIMTA.
“So in general, we are giving almost 0.8 percent of GDP so far on tax incentives from these income tax holidays and custom duty exemptions. Together with the VAT, it is P301 billion, or 2 percent of GDP. These are only the investment incentives,” Chua said.
Following the enactment of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN), which slashes personal income tax rates while raising additional revenues for infrastructure and social services, the DoF is now preparing to introduce to the Congress the Duterte administration’s Package Two of the CTRP, which focuses on reducing corporate income tax (CIT) rates while rationalizing fiscal incentives.
Under Package Two, the DoF aims to lower the CIT rate to 25 percent, while rationalizing incentives for companies to make these performance-based, targeted, time-bound, and transparent.
Through this proposal, the government would be able to ensure that incentives granted to businesses generate jobs, stimulate the economy in the countryside and promote research and development; contain sunset provisions so that tax perks do not last forever; and are reported so the government can determine the magnitude of their costs and benefits to the economy.
The DoF is targeting to submit this revenue-neutral proposal to the House of Representatives this January.
Chua has pointed out that the government collects income taxes from large corporations and other private firms representing only 3.7 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or a collection rate of a low 12 percent because of 360 laws that grant businesses tax breaks and other perks.
He said that compared to other economies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines imposes the highest CIT rate but is among those at the bottom in terms of collection efficiency, resulting in a high rate but narrow tax base.
The Philippines, he said, currently imposes a CIT rate of 30 percent but with a tax collection efficiency rate of only 12.3 percent, while Thailand’s CIT rate is only 20 percent but it collects almost triple–a 30.5 percent efficiency–that represents 6.1 percent of its GDP.