Hontiveros files resolution seeking probe on BIR's taxation, registration of online sellers

Published June 23, 2020, 10:28 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Hannah L. Torregoza

Senator Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution urging the Senate to investigate the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) efforts to subject online sellers to taxation and registration requirements, saying there is a need to ensure that the government’s current revenue policies are sensitive to the Filipinos’ plight at the time of a pandemic.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Risa Hontiveros
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

In filing Senate Resolution No. 453, Hontiveros particularly pointed to BIR’s Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) 60-2020 released early this month in which online sellers are required to register with the bureau and pay due taxes.

The senator said that if the government is after big digital entrepreneurs, it should make sure that small online sellers are not affected considering “they are trying to make ends meet in these difficult times.”

“Magulo at mahirap sundin ang BIR memo lalo na’t paiba-iba ang sinasabi ng ahensiya ng pamahalaan ukol dito (That BIR memo is confusing and hard to follow especially since government officials’ stand on this issue is inconsistent),” Hontiveros said.

“It is best for everybody’s interests if the BIR suspends the implementation of the memo until Dec. 31, 2020, while government agencies review and craft better policy guidelines on how online entrepreneurs should register or pay taxes,” she added.

The lawmaker said it is imperative that the Senate reviews revenue policies to ensure these are responsive to the difficulties faced by many Filipinos during this pandemic.

She pointed out that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had earlier claimed that the BIR memo exempts online sellers earning less than P250,000 annually but the BIR has said that all online sellers, no matter how big or small their income is, must register.

Hontiveros said this is adding to public confusion since small online sellers would have to shoulder the cost of registration payment which amounts to P2,260.
“Madami sa mga bagong online sellers ang nawalan ng trabaho o negosyo at ngayon ay dumidiskarte sa Internet (many of our new online sellers lost their jobs and livelihood and are using the Internet),” she said.

“Maliit lang ang kinikita nila, wala silang masasakyan papunta sa mga opisina ng BIR, at delikado sa kalusugan ng pamilya nila kapag lumabas sila, (They are earning little and they do not have any effective transport system they can use to go to the BIR office. It’s also dangerous to their health and their family if they leave their homes),” she said.

Hontiveros said the BIR should first launch a digital platform for registration as requiring people to congregate at the BIR’s offices exposes them to the health risks associated with COVID-19.

“It is only proper for the BIR to ensure that big digital businesses earning millions in profits, such as the Philippine Online Gaming Operators (POGOs), are paying the proper taxes as required by law,” she said.

Hontiveros said it is necessary for the government to closely monitor the conditions of Filipinos trying to provide for their families through online selling given the current record levels of unemployment, and with 7.3 million Filipinos now jobless due to the pandemic.

“There is insufficient official data vis-à-vis the informal online economy to guide policy, thus making it imperative that the relevant government agencies provide an update on the situation for Congress,” she said.