By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Sunday urged lawmakers to fast- track the passage of a bill that would grant tax exemption to the honoraria, transportation allowance and other poll benefits for public school teachers who will work in the May 2022 elections.
The measure, Senate Bill No. 1193, is still pending before the Senate ways and means committee, chaired by Sen. Pia Cayetano.
The bill primarily introduces amendments to the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 so teachers can receive the full amount of their honoraria and other benefits.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) started imposing five percent withholding tax on poll workers’ election service honoraria and other allowances since the 2018 barangay elections.
The senator noted that despite the continuous service that these poll workers render to ensure the transmission of results, they are required to pay income tax if their annual taxable income, which includes such honoraria and allowances, exceeds the P250,000 threshold under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.
“Mahabang oras ang inilalaan ng mga guro upang siguruhin ang kaayusan at integridad ng ating mga halalan (Our teachers spend long hours to ensure the order and integrity of our elections),” Gatchalian said.
“Kaya naman inihain natin itong panukalang batas na ito upang kilalanin ang kanilang mahalagang papel para pangalagaan ang ating demokrasya, (That is why we are filing this measure in recognition of the important role of our teachers in preserving our democracy),” Gatchalian said.
The bill also aims to exclude their honoraria and allowances from gross income. Under the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA), chairpersons of electoral boards are each entitled to receive P6,000. Each member of electoral boards receive P5,000. Department of Education Supervisor Officials (DESO) receive P4,000 each while support staff receive P2,000 each.
A travel allowance of P1,000 is also allotted to each of these poll workers. The ESRA, though, has no provision for tax exemption.
He also said that aside from their arduous work during elections, Gatchalian noted the process they have to endure to collect their pay.
He noted that in order to collect their election honoraria and benefits, poll workers have to go to the local Commission on Elections (Comelec) offices and submit a declaration of exemptions if they earn less than P250,000 annually.
“Napapagod na nga ang ating mga guro tuwing halalan, kailangan pa nilang dumaan sa isang komplikadong proseso para makuha lang nila ang kanilang sahod at mga benepisyo (Our teachers are not only tired during elections, they have to go through a complicated process just so they can get their salary and their benefits),” he pointed out.
“Kung hindi na papatawan ng buwis ang sahod at benepisyo ng mga guro tuwing halalan, hindi lang sila basta makakatanggap ng kabuuang bayad, mas mapapadali din ang proseso para sa Comelec, (If we remove the taxes on their salary and the benefits of our teachers during elections, they will not only receive the full amount of their salary, the process will also make it easier for Comelec), ” Gatchalian said.