By Ellson Quismorio
Why not give middle-income earners tax credits equal to the cash aid being received by poor and low-income families under the national government’s social amelioration program?
ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Niña Taduran floated this idea on April 7, Tuesday, amid observations that members of the middle class—the work horses of Philippine economy—have been left behind in terms of government aid amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taduran, an assistant majority leader, believes that middle-income families need financial assistance at this time when they are forced to spend more, beyond their means.
“A lot of middle-income families have also been badly hit by the slowdown in the economy and the work stoppage. They could be small businessmen or employed but their companies couldn’t sustain their operations,” she said.
“I call on the government to extend financial assistance to middle-income earners via a tax credit equivalent to the amount distributed to poor families under the social amelioration program,” Taduran added.
Under Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One” Act, some 18 million families will be given cash aid in the range of ₱5,000 to ₱8,000, depending on region, for two months (April and May).
“Having to pay ₱5,000 to ₱8,000 less in taxes means ₱5,000 to ₱8,000 more that they can use for their personal needs,” she noted.
While this may initially result to a loss of income to the government, the added purchasing power of the middle class will help stimulate the economy through the purchases they make, according to the lady solon.
“Furthermore, this will not require additional budgetary expense on the part of the government,” Taduran said.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) had earlier extended the deadline for the filing of the 2019 annual Income Tax Returns (ITRs) from April 15 to May 15, 2020, as result of the public health emergency.
SSS pensioners need aid, too
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Colmenares scored on Tuesday the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease for excluding Social Security System (SSS) pensioners as beneficiaries in the social amelioration package. These pensioners include even those receiving less than P5,000 a month from SSS.
“At present, the basic SSS pension is just P2,000 per month, thus, it is very incompassionate [sic] for the government to deprive our SSS pensioners of help, especially in this time of crisis… We strongly call on the IATF to seriously reconsider its position and include SSS pensioners receiving less than P5,000 a month in the social amelioration program so that our seniors’ plight would somehow be alleviated in this time of pandemic,” said Zarate, a deputy minority leader.
Colmenares, meanwhile, said most Filipino seniors do not even have enough money to buy food, let alone their maintenance medicines, during this pandemic.
“They are the most vulnerable in this time of pandemic, and, the least the government can do, is to augment even a little their means to survive this crisis,” he added. “It would be well for the Duterte administration to reconsider its policy.”