Approve tax exemption on election pay of poll workers, Senate urged

Published May 23, 2022, 5:48 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

A group called on the Senate to “recompense the sacrifices” made by election workers during the May 9, 2022 elections by hastening the approval of a bill that will scrap the 20 percent tax on election service pay and refund previous tax collections.

(ALI VICOY / MANILA BULLETIN)

As Congress resumed sessions on Monday, May 23, to canvass election results for the presidential and vice presidential posts, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines urged Senate President Tito Sotto to lead the push to ensure its legislation before the 18th Congress sessions close on June 3, 2022.

“Our election workers cannot wholly feel the state’s recognition of their vital role in the past elections as hefty tax deductions practically eroded the measly raise on election service pay,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.

Basilio stressed that it is “urgent” for the Senate to fast-track the legislation that will exempt all previous and future election service pay from taxes because if the 18th Congress fails to do so, “we will go back to square one and all our efforts will have been in vain.”

“We can’t afford to delay this any further,” Basilio said. “Senate owes it to teachers to ensure its immediate legislation,” he added.

ACT also urged Sotto to “prioritize this for the benefit of all election frontliners whose contribution every election season is immeasurable and vital as the country endeavors in this democratic process of electing new leaders.”

The group pointed out that the lower house already approved the measure in August of 2021 but the Senate “has been lagging” and only tackled it at the committee level on April 21, 2022.

The group has been lobbying among legislators for the urgent passing of the said measure since the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) “suddenly imposed for the first time” a five percent tax on the honoraria and allowances of poll workers in 2018.

In the 2022 elections, ACT pointed out that levies were hiked to 20 percent under the provisions of the TRAIN Law.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has since expressed support for ACT’s calls and registered the same in the recent committee hearing of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

“Our poll workers yet again delivered exemplary service despite last election’s dirty politicking and the untransparent automated elections system,” Basilio alleged.

“Our teachers were subjected to harsh conditions and unnecessary hardships, but they fulfilled their duties and went above and beyond to protect the sanctity of our people’s votes,” he added.

Given these, Basilio said that teacher-poll workers “deserve to be fully remunerated for their service, without burdensome tax deductions.”

ACT also emphasized the urgency for the legislation of the bill that will tax-exempt election service pay which they insist shall have a provision for retroactive application.

If passed as such, all tax collections from 2018 to 2022 shall be refunded to poll workers.

However, if the Senate fails to approve a counterpart measure in its last days of session and President Duterte will not approve it before June 30, ACT said that the new Congress will have to file a new one and “go through the long-winded process” of the committee and plenary deliberations in both chambers.

 
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