By Merlina Hernando Malipot
A teachers’ group is raising a howl over the reported mandatory five-percent withholding tax which the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will deduct from the honoraria and travel allowance of the Board of Election Tellers (BET) who will serve in the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in a statement said, “taxing the election service honorarium is unfair.”
The tax is equivalent to P350 from the P6,000 honoria each teacher will receive for serving as BET.
A revenue official said the tax will be returned if the teacher’s annual total compensation does not exceed his/her tax exemption of P250,000 as prescribed under the Tax Reform for Acceleration (TRAIN) law.
ACT national secretary-general Raymond Basilio noted that most of those who will serve in the upcoming elections are Teacher I and Teacher II whose annual income does not reach P250,000 even with the incorporation of the poll honorarium. “If this pushes through, it only shows how insincere the government is in lowering the income tax of the low-income earners,” he added.
Citing the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law which came to effect last January, Basilio said “those who earn P250,000 a year will be exempted from income tax.” The law, he added, “was in effect at the same time with the new and higher excise and value added taxes on consumer goods and services.”
ACT said the election compensation for teachers should be given “in full” considering the “laborious duties, hazards to health, harassment, and legal cases” that teachers face in rendering poll duty.
The group stressed that serving during polls is “life threatening” for teachers because of potential harassment coming from losing candidates. The teachers, ACT said, also experience “lack of sleep” and “sacrifice their vacation” which is supposed to be time spent with their families.
“More horrific is the decision to tax the P1,000 travel allowance of the BETs,” Basilio said. The travel allowance, he said, is not even income for the teachers but a direct expense in the performance of duty. “What government in its right mind would even think of charging teachers taxes for taking a cab in bringing election paraphernalia to the polling precinct?” he added.
ACT said government is “preempting the teachers from fully benefitting in our victory” of having the Election Service Reform Act enacted.
“One major gain of the teachers under ESRA is the doubling of the honorarium and travel allowance rates to compensate the difficulties and hazards that the teachers go through in rendering election service,” Basilio noted.
“The teachers are deeply disappointed with the paranoia of the government that common citizens, such as teachers, might get away with their tax obligations, that is why they collect tax at source even if they do not correctly apply,” Basilio said.
He slammed the BIR for “big backlogs in collecting taxes from big companies and the government could not penalize big tax evaders nor curb rampant corruption in the bureaucracy that squander away billions of taxpayers’ money.”
ACT vowed to “fight for teachers to fully enjoy the benefits of their election service” as it prepares to “take legal actions to address the issue.”
Better compensation package
But the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) is optimistic and hopes the benefits for teachers and personnel who will serve in the May polls will be delivered.
“First time to be tested in an election, the Election Services Reform Act (RA 10756) will favor the teachers who will sit in the electoral board (EB) for the upcoming Barangay and SK elections,” TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas said.
The group is anticipating “better compensation package, insurance and protection for teachers who will opt to serve the Barangay and SK Elections” on May 14.
The group lauded the passage of RA 10756 which they believe “will reduce, if not totally put an end to harassment, intimidation, violent attacks and post-election cases suffered by the teachers in the past elections.”
Basas said that because of this law, teachers will not be compelled to serve the elections if they perceive that they are not safe, secured or well compensated or simply they just do not want the task. “They can now have the option to serve or not,” he ended.