House panel vows to look into a measure exempting frontliners from paying tax for 1 year

The House Committee on Ways and Means vowed Tuesday (Sept.1) to study a measure seeking to exempt from taxation for taxable year 2020 all medical and non-medical frontliners.


Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda said they will give due attention to House Bill No. 7351, which is principally authored by Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Luisa Loren Cuaresma.

Cuaresma’s proposed “Handog sa mga Bayaning Lumalaban Kontra COVID-19 Act,” which seeks to exempt the frontliners from paying income tax for a period of one year, drew mixed reactions from her colleagues.

“Everyone is affected with COVID, that is their profession. If we will pass this bill, surely, the government will lose revenues,” Negros Oriental 2nd District Rep. Manuel Sagarbarria, chairperson of the House Special Committee on West Philippine Sea, said in a text message when asked if he would support HB 7351.

Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chairperson of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, also expressed reservation over the proposed tax exemption.

"Teka muna (Hold on), we can give them all the perks and bonuses and add more benefits as frontliners but tax exempt, ewan ko lang (I don’t know). I’ll read first her proposal,” he said in a separate text message.

Meanwhile, Southern Leyte lone District Rep. Roger Mercado, and Ang Probinsyano partylist Rep. Ronnie Ong rallied behind the measure.

"We have to attend to our frontliners. It’s between life or death,” Mercado said. However, he said the proposed tax exemption should be given "only while the pandemic lasts.”

Ong threw all-out support to HB 7351 to pay tribute to the frontliners’ valuable contributions to the country’s battle against COVID-19.

”We are supporting this bill. Our frontliners, direct and indirect need our support right now more than ever. At least this way, madagdagan ng konti ang budget nila (Their budget will be augmented). They are our new heroes,” he said.

Covered by the bill are those engaged in health-related services and working or employed in hospitals, clinics, or other medical institutions, whether public or private, which accept or treat patients infected with COVID-19.

Administrative employees, support personnel, and staff of health institutions regardless of their employment status stand to benefit from Cuaresma’s proposal.

HB 7351 provides that the proposed exemption would only cover the salary or compensation, as well as gross receipts from the exercise of profession or employment, received by a frontliner for taxable year 2020.

“The tax holiday shall not include those income received by the frontliners from other businesses, investments, and other kinds of passive income not related to serving, treating, caring, aiding, and assisting COVID-19 patients,” the bill said.

Under the measure, subject to the pertinent regulations of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), non-medical and medical frontliners are still required to file their percentage tax returns, Value-Added Tax returns, and quarterly income tax returns to their respective revenue district offices.

The measure authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Finance (DoF) to extend for a period of not more than six months the exemption from payment of income tax to qualified frontliners based on the decision of the President of the Philippines upon the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force.