House studies bill to regulate online selling; BIR requires registration for tax payments

Published June 12, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ben Rosario 

Approval of a House of Representatives priority bill proposing to protect consumers and merchants engaged in internet transactions has been overtaken by the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s determined efforts to collect taxes from online sellers.

On a vote of 261 to 18, the Senate and the House of Representatives decide to extend martial law in Mindanao up to December 31, 2017 in a joint, special session at the Batasang Pambansa yesterday. Inset photo shows Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III (left) and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez presiding over the session that lasted more than seven hours. (Jansen Romero, Alvin Kasiban)
House of the Representatives (Manila Bulletin File Photo)

As the House Committee on Trade and Industry headed by Valenzuela City Rep. Weslie Gatchalian started to conduct hearings on House Bill 6122, the BIR issued
Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 60-2020 requiring all businesses involved in digital transactions to register with the revenue agency for tax purposes.

ACT CIS Partylist Rep. Rowena Niña Taduran criticized the BIR for the-ill-timed announcement as she assailed revenue officials for being “insensitive” to the plight of both online sellers and buyers who have found internet-mediated transactions efficient and suitable to quarantine conditions.

Requesting anonymity, members of a Pasig City–based “online market” that had previously welcomed HB 6122 are now looking at the provisions of the bill with suspicion.

A member of the group, one who is involved in online seller of pastries said most of them are apprehensive of being taxed beyond their means, thus, making their businesses a “losing proposition.”

“Kaya pala kami gusto mapa-rehistro ay upang pagbuwisin, akala naming gusto lamang proteksyunan ng Kongreso ang maliit na hanapbuhay naming,” Kay Flores (not her real name) said. (They want us to register in order to tax us, we thought all along that Congress wanted to protect our small businesses.)

Gatchalian, principal author of HB 6122, said the measure seeks to establish a “culture and environment founded on trust among consumers and merchants” in order to further boost the e-commerce in the country.

HB 6122 proposes to penalize residents of the Philippines who engage in unauthorized e-commerce activity.

To be able to ferret them out, Gatrchalian proposed the creation of an e-Commerce Bureau that will handle complaints on internet transactions and facilitate the speedy resolution of the complaints.

The body will also monitor the observance of a code of conduct among online businesses to build trust in their trade and protect consumers rights.

During a hearing on the bill on Wednesday, Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ruth Castelo disclosed that there has been a big increase in the number of complaints between internet consumers and merchants.

In the past two months, the complaints for online transactions totaled 8,059 which represents a huge increase from the 985 cases recorded by the Department of Trade and Industry from January to March 2020.

“Complaints involving online transactions before the peak of ECQ’s impact rose by 78.22 percent,” Castelo said.

This DTI report is giving the House trade and industry committee more reason to pursue the enactment of HB 6122, said Gatchalian.

“These online sellers just want to put food on the table. This might even be just a temporary activity for them until they find a more stable job,” Taduran stated.