By Ben Rosario
Will the law punishing revenue collectors for failing to meet collection targets be implemented this time?
This question surfaced Saturday after Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, assailed both the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for lackluster collection performance despite getting help from the implementation of new but unpopular tax laws.
After chiding the BIR for an impending collection deficit, Salceda is practically breathing down the neck of BOC officials for scoring huge deficits from areas considered smuggling prone.
Salceda did not mentioned applying the penal provisions of Republic Act No. 9335 or the Lateral Attrition Act of 2005 but warned both the BIR and the BOC to improve their respective revenue collection efforts. This law provides for rewards to collection agencies that surpass target but calls for the removal of those who are dismal failures in achieving their goals.
Salceda, also vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, has revealed that customs collections have slid to 6.3 percent below target, with the BOC “collecting only P535 billion versus the target of P571 billion.”
“While peso appreciation could account for P7.1 billion of the deficit, still with two months to 2019, the committee has urged BOC to heighten measures to curtail smuggling, particularly in excisable products,” said Salceda.
The ways and means panel wants the BOC to “exercise greater surveillance” at the Port of Manila which registered the “most dismal deficit at P21 billion or 25 percent below the target.”
The Manila International Container Port was also named for poor performance for its 13.1 percent below target collection, representing about P20 billion in uncollected duties.
“In the meantime, Customs officials, especially at Limay, reported that there is in fact higher crude importation instead of final petroleum products contrary to BIR reports. And the committee will conduct oversight to settle the conflicting excuses for underperformance,” said Salceda.
“The committee expressed displeasure over the BOC deficit and required the District Collectors of the major ports (Davao, Manila, MICP, Batangas, and Cebu) to explain their respective collections,” he stated.
The senior administration lawmaker said the district collector of Cebu “was singled out” for nearly “halving the valuation” of importation of Isuzu machines; and for the failure to swiftly take action on the 60 overstaying garbage containers.
Earlier, Salceda asked the BIR to explain the reasons behind the expected shortfall in collection target which has been set at P2.32 trillion for 2019.
He revealed that with two months to go before the end of the year, the collection target as of October, 2019, reached only P1.7 trillion.
“While this is 10 percent higher than the collection in the same period in 2019, this is falling short of the DBCC-set target by 4.71 percent,” lamented Salceda, referring to the Development and Budget Coordination Committee.
Salceda noted that the BIR has cited the P55 billion foregone revenue in fuel excise tax and delay in the passage of the 2019 General Appropriations Act as among the reasons for the low collection performance.
Further, the revenue agency also pointed to the decision of giant oil companies Shell and Petron to import all petroleum products instead of refining fuel locally as another reason for the underperformance.
“Thus, it is now the Bureau of Customs that collects the VAT (value-added tax) and excise taxes amounting to almost P55 billion,” said Salceda.