Passage of measure exempting frontliners treating COVID patients from tax seen this year

The chairperson of the House Committee on Ways and Means sees within this year the passage of a measure seeking to exempt from taxation for taxable year 2020 all medical and non-medical frontliners who are directly serving, treating, caring,aiding, and assisting COVID-19 patients.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said his panel will shepherd the immediate approval of House Bill No. 7351 by the House of Representatives principally authored by Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Luisa Loren Cuaresma.

Albay Representative Joey Salceda (ALI VICOY/ MANILA BULLETIN)

“The Committee on Ways and Means has proven its efficiency and effectiveness in grinding critical legislation,” he said, citing the possibility that Cuaresma’s measure will hurdle his panel and the House plenary "within this year."

The House leader assured the public that the Cuaresma’s proposed “Handog sa mga Bayaning Lumalaban Kontra COVID-19 Act” remains in the priority list of his committee.

“The Committee will prioritize the bill's deliberations after the passage of the national budget. It’s my own advocacy,” he said.

When asked if HB 7351 will be passed by his committee and by the plenary before 2020 ends, he replied in the affirmative.

Last Aug. 24, the House Committee on Rules, chaired by House Majority Leader Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, referred Cuaresma’s bill to the Salceda panel for its consideration.

Cuaresma’s measure seeks to exempt the frontliners from paying income tax for a period of one year.

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.

Cuaresma has urged her colleagues to support her measure, saying that it is "a simple way for the government to express its gratitude and appreciation for the courage and dedication being shown by all country’s frontliners in the face of this pandemic posed by the coronavirus disease.”