THE Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is yet to refund an estimated P5 billion that it unlawfully deducted from minimum-wage earners despite a ruling issued by the Supreme Court (SC) almost a year ago.
Organized labor on Friday took the cudgels for the more than 30 million ordinary workers nationwide, insisting that a cash refund is long overdue, including the legal interest the collected money earned from 2008 to the present.
“We cannot understand why the BIR and the DoF [Department of Finance] are quick to squeeze money from the workers but it takes forever for them to return those. Mahiya naman kayo [Have shame]! Those are workers’ blood money. Pinaghirapan yan ng mga manggagawa, ibalik na ninyo [They worked hard for it, give it back to them]!” Alan Tanjusay, Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) spokesman, said.
In its 56-page decision issued on January 24, 2017, the High Court nullified several provisions of BIR Internal Revenue Regulation 10-2008 that disqualify minimum-wage earners (MWEs) from tax exemptions on their wage, bonus and other compensation benefits such as overtime pay, hazard pay, holiday pay and night-shift differential pay, including fringe benefits in excess of P30,000, including those who received their 13th month pay bonus.
But despite the ruling, the BIR continued to collect taxes on the basic wage, bonuses and other benefits from millions of minimum-wage workers nationwide from June to December 2008 even as the law exempted them from such taxes starting July 6, 2008.
The SC also directed the BIR to grant a refund or allow a refund through withheld tax adjustments or a claim for tax credits by those subjected by IRR 10-2008.
“Some minimum-wage workers who were subjected to tax may have remained a minimum-wage earner up to this day but they cannot claim tax credit because they are exempted from income tax. Some may have been promoted and some may have been unemployed. Some have become OFWs [overseas Filipino workers]. Some are already deceased,” Tanjusay said, adding, “In fairness to the workers subjected by the regulation, the best option here is a cash refund.”
The Supreme Court ruling stemmed from petitions filed by lawmakers, individuals and labor groups.