Tax reform bill exempts 3M workers

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At least three million employees will not be paying income tax under the proposed tax reform of the Duterte administration endorsed by the National Union Party (NUP) and 17 party-list groups.

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Rep. Karlo Nograles, chairman of the House Appropriations panel, said the NUP and its 17 allied party-list groups endorsed House Bill 477 that seeks to exempt those earning P250,000 or less in a year from paying income taxes.

The bill also seeks to increase fuel taxes (P6 per liter for diesel and P10 per liter for gasoline).

“At least three million people will be exempted from paying taxes, and the additional revenue [from additional taxes]will reduce extreme poverty and expand our middle income base. And so we are hoping that this measure will be passed as soon as possible,” Nograles told reporters.

“The additional revenue is our investment for education, social protection and infrastructure,” he added.

Nograles also allayed fears that higher excise tax on fuel will result in at least P6 peso increase per liter of diesel, which is used for jeepneys, buses, farm implements, cargo trucks and haulers and the country’s largest power plants.

The lawmaker cited the Finance department’s plan to subsidize poor households under the Conditional Cash Transfer program with an additional P300 per month to cushion the impact of higher fuel taxes, as well as the plan for government to subsidize public utility drivers.

This subsidy plan, however, is only good for one year.

“The subsidy is there for the first year is crucial, but the subsidy being short-lived remains a concern of many legislators. We can still talk to the Finance department and maybe extend it for another year,” Nograles said.

At the same time, other lawmakers urged senators to act swiftly on the bill that seeks to impose a two-tier tax scheme for cigarettes.

Rep. Eric Singson, one of the convenors of Northern Luzon Alliance, noted that the existing unitary tax of P30 per pack on all cigarette brands favor the premium brands over the locally-manufactured cigarettes.

Under the two-tier scheme, cigarettes priced lower than P11.50 per pack will have a P32 tax per pack while those priced over P11.50 per pack will be slapped a P36 tax rate per pack.

“The unitary tax favors the interest of those manufacturing imported cigarettes and brands. Congress should always protect local farmers,” Singson said.

House Ways and Means panel chairman Dakila Cua and Rep. Rep. Jose Atienza of Buhay party-list earlier made the same call.

“A unitary taxation is unreasonable. We see that this measure will bring about additional revenues to the government, and we hope that it will also further reduce the prevalence of smoking,” Cua said in a text message.

“I hope that our good senators will also do their part to protecting the local tobacco famers from unfair business practice favoring multinational companies by immediately deliberating and approving the proposed amendments to the Sin tax Reform Act,” Atienza said.

President Mario Cabasal of the National Federation of Tobacco Farmers Association and Cooperatives made the same appeal.

“We call on the Senate to take heed of our call because this will guarantee our livelihood. We fear that our brands won’t be sold anymore because as it is, the taxes for the premium brands are the same,” Cabasal said in a statement. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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