GMA orders BIR to catch tax cheats, hike revenues

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the local government units to work closely in identifying tax cheats even as a Laguna lawmaker is batting for a lifestyle check on rich taxpayers.

Mrs. Arroyo yesterday issued an order allowing for an exchange of documents between the taxman and the local officials.

“Information on taxpayers is vital to the effective collection of taxes by both the national government and the local government units. The BIR and the LGUs can help each other in their collection efforts through accessibility of information that they have on record,” Mrs. Arroyo said in Executive Order 646.

Under the National Internal Revenue Code, a BIR officer or employee who reveals information regarding the business income or estate of any taxpayer would be fired and slapped with administrative charges.

But the President said the revenue code also allows the BIR to make records available to a local treasurer “for the purpose of ascertaining, assessing, and collecting the correct amount of local taxes, fees or charges.”

“Failure on the part of the BIR and the LGUs to comply with the directives under this executive order shall make them liable for administrative sanction.”

The BIR, has launched the Local Government Unit Revenue Assurance Systems, an online database enabling the agency and all participating cities and municipalities to check records of taxpayers.

So far, only Marikina City has transmitted its records for the LGU-BIR database.

The President on Monday ordered the BIR to run after big tax evaders as she tested the agency’s Revenue Watch Dashboard where the revenue performance on a section-per- section and regional basis can be easily accessed online.

If the dashboard’s arrow is on the color red, it means the cumulative collection is below 90 percent target, yellow if it is up to 99 percent, and green if 100 percent.

From January to June, the BIR was in the red after it incurred a P36.8 billion shortfall for the first semester. But for July, the agency exceeded its target by at least P1.8 billion.

The P50 million collection shortfall has prompted Fitch Ratings to warn that the full-year budget deficit for 2007 would reach P125 billion or double the government’s target ceiling of P63 billion.

Meanwhile, Rep. Danilo Suarez of Quezon has proposed a tax amnesty law, which provides for tax mapping or lifestyle check on all taxpayers.

The Suarez proposal empowers the BIR to determine why an individual or businessman is able to send his children to exclusive schools and travel with his family abroad, but pays a meager amount of tax.

To be able to hasten its job of tax mapping, Suarez said the BIR could coordinate with the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Land Transportation Office, Securities and Exchange Commission, Bureau of Immigration and other government agencies to get a background check on the financial activities and capabilities of an individual.