By Ben Rosario
House Minority Leader and Manila Representative Bienvenido Abante Jr. has asked Congress to exempt Bibles and other religious articles and certain merchandise from taxes, duty fees, and other charges.
Abante, a Baptist pastor, filed House Bill No. 2071 to make churches, that already enjoy income and real property tax exemption, truly unburdened from other taxes and fees imposed by government.
He pointed out that while there are certain provisions of the Constitution that declare the principle of separation of church and state, the 1987 Charter also guarantees that no law shall be passed prohibiting the free exercise of religion and the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession.
Thus, he said, the Constitution provides that churches should be exempted from payment of taxes.
“Notwithstanding these constitutional provisions, it is ironic that to enjoy tax exemption, churches are being required to secure first from the Bureau of Internal Revenue tax exemption certificates,” Abante said.
Likewise, bibles and other religious articles sent to the Philippines by foreign churches are being taxed although these are not sold for profit.
“This bill, therefore, aims to do away with the requirement of certificates for churches to be tax exempt from specific transactions, properties, goods, mechandise, and other articles used actually, directly, and exclusively for religious, charitable, and educational purposes, hence its immediate passage is earnestly requested,” Abante said in the explanatory notes of his bill.
Under Abante’s proposal, the ownership and transfer of any nature of real or personal property from a private person or entity to a church or vice versa should not be taxed. However, such transactions may only be covered by the legislative proposal if the property will be used “actually, directly, and exclusively” for religious, charitable, or educational purposes.
Bibles, religious books or articles, medicines and other articles, and merchandise imported to a church in the Philippines should also be tax exempt, as should sports and office appliances, equipment, or articles that will be used exclusively by the local church.
HB 2071 grants the Bureau of Internal Revenue the authority to revoke its certificate of tax exemption if it finds out that the items covered by the tax exemption are being used for purposes that are not related to religious, charitable, or educational activities.