By Chito Chavez
Members of the militant group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) will stage a picket today (May 6) in front of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) head office in Quezon City in protest to the five percent tax imposed on the honoraria and allowances of public school teachers rendering poll duties in the May 13, 2019 mid-term elections.
Insisting their right to just compensation is being violated, ACT demanded the scrapping of the five percent tax on election compensation and the automatic tax exemption of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI).
Calling their tasks as “Buwis buhay na May buwis pa (Life threatening and yet heavily taxed)’’, ACT members stressed the soaring inflation rates have made their life miserable as they prepare huge sample ballots with their demands inscribed on them.
Also, ACT hit the one-year delay in tax refund for tax-exempt teachers who served in the 2018 elections, the ‘illogical and faulty’ process of automatic tax deduction and refund being implemented, the burdensome paper works for tax deduction and refund, and the continuing collection of the ‘unwarranted’ tax on election service pay.
“The unjustified taxing of our poll service compensation brought forth a string of problems to teachers that causes bitterness to teachers as they perform their otherwise noble and nationalist duty of facilitating the people’s exercise of their right to vote,” said Ruby Anna Bernardo, Spokesperson of ACT Teachers’ Election Hotline.
Taxing the poll service pay
The BIR imposed for the first time in 2018 a 5 percent tax on election service compensation, saying that “all cash that flow through the hands of an individual is considered income and should be subjected to taxation’’.
Bernardo said that ACT has challenged the tax order before the BIR for lack of legal basis as no law was passed to back its implementation.
She added the BIR cited precedent of a Supreme Court case does not justify the tax collection as poll service honoraria are not professional fees, are not covered by other rates of withholding tax due to it being a single purchase below P10,000 and cannot be considered as compensation income as teacher-poll workers are not Comelec employees.
“The unwarranted taxing of a meager PhP3,000 to PhP9 000 poll service compensation only exposes the tax-hungry character of the Duterte government. As if TRAIN Law excise taxes are not burdensome enough, they also want to take away from the minimal pay given to teachers who risk their safety and sacrifice their rest-time to perform their election duties,’’ said Bernardo.
ACT added the petition they filed before the BIR in May 2018 for the scrapping of the 5 percent tax is still pending with the Bureau a year later.
“BIR is evidently sleeping on its job as they are still yet to act on our petition one year later,” said Bernardo.
Wholesale deduction, delayed refund
Bernardo further argued that even tax-exempt teachers were not spared from the automatic 5 percent tax deduction in 2018, and were obliged to undergo a tedious process involving several unnecessary paper works in order to process the refund.
Even after doing so, ACT said that teachers in at least 10 regions (namely Region III, IV-A, V, VII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, and BARMM) have reported that they still have not received the tax refund.
Bernardo cited the ‘ridiculous’ case of Butuan City teachers who were being compelled to sign a waiver that indicates teachers are donating their tax refunds for the 2018 elections.
ACT called for the immediate release of the 2018 tax refund for teachers who, in the first place, should not have been subjected to deductions.
“Despite their clearly faulty automatic tax deduction and refund system, they insist on continuing its implementation. In fact, the travel allowance recently received by Electoral Board members who attended BEI (Board of Election Inspector) Trainings was again indiscriminately charged with 5 percent tax,” Bernardo added.
Bernardo noted this could have easily been avoided had the Comelec and DepEd properly coordinated to determine tax-exempt teachers from those who are not.
She insisted that at the onset of BEI member nomination and appointment, both agencies have information on the position/designation of teachers indicated in their official documents.