Senators back tax exemption of honoraria, allowances for teachers who render poll duties

Senators are throwing their support on proposals seeking to exempt from income tax all election honoraria and allowances of persons rendering services during elections.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, author of Senate Bill No. 1193, said public school teachers who are required to render poll duties during elections will greatly benefit from such tax policy, saying it is “a small token for teachers’ extraordinary sacrifice.”

“The responsibility given to the teachers during the elections is quite extraordinary in a sense that it's not a part of their core responsibilities of teaching. It's part of their responsibility of ensuring that democracy is free and lively in our country, and of course, protected,” Gatchalian said during the Senate Committee on Ways and Means hearing on the proposed measures on Thursday.

“There is a lot of risk involved during election time. In fact I checked the latest data, the PNP (Philippine National Police) declared 120 hot spots in our country, election hot spots in our country, in which the teachers, our teachers will be manning those polling areas,” he further said.

“So exempting them from 20 percent withholding tax is a small recognition for their small sacrifice and small recognition for the extra mile that they demonstrated for our country in terms of assuring democracy,” added Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

“I know that we might not have the time to approve this for this coming election but for other elections coming within the year, the Barangay elections might come by the end of the year and other elections that will be manned by our teachers, like for example the BARMM elections,” he said referring to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, who chairs the Ways and Means panel and presided over the hybrid hearing, agreed with the proponents of the measure, noting the hardship teachers go through performing the job as members of the Electoral Board during national and local elections.

Cayetano pointed out such activities “is actually outside their scope of work.” She also cited the position of some teachers’ groups stating that election honoraria are not income but in the nature of benefits, which should not be subject to tax.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III also said he backs the proposal and hopes that authorities can provide a clear mechanics on how to go about the taxation of election honoraria.

“I hope we will be able to solve the details or the mechanics so that the benefits will be felt by our teachers who are serving with the electoral boards,” Pimentel stressed.

However, the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), during the hearing, stood pat on its position that the allowances and honoraria received by teachers rendering poll duties should be subjected to tax.

According to the DOF, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law already provides tax relief from the reduction of personal income tax rates.