Hearing him explain what he says are the common pitfalls that people make in understanding taxation, you wouldn’t know that this lawyer who currently runs one of the country’s thriving law offices specializing in taxation, really didn’t have plans of becoming a lawyer when he was younger. Lawyer Jesus Clint Aranas, who is managing partner of Aranas Law said, “I grew up in Negros and came from a very laid-back family. At that time, I just wanted to sit tight and have a good time in Bacolod.” After a while he said, reality set in and he realized he needed to do something more, and lawyering appealed to him. But the road to law was a bumpy ride for him. It was a good thing he persevered, he said, because all the experiences he had, helped mould him to who he is now.
After graduating from Silliman University, Aranas recalls his first job was working as a legislative assistant to the late Sen. Raul Roco. After a while, he transferred to the SGV, and left a few years later to put up his own law firm along with a few other friends in the industry.
Aranas Law was founded in April 2003. Formerly known as ACB Law, the founders describe their firm as a quality service concept law firm specializing in the field of taxation and business advisory. Aranas said that they see their work as a one-stop shop for all areas of concern in investing in the Philippines. He also describes the firm as the only boutique tax and corporation law firm composed of young, enthusiastic and creative lawyers.
In addition, the firm also holds regular in-house tax seminars on various topics in tax and even corporate law. Aranas said that they do this by bringing a team of lawyers and conduct a lecture and facilitate discussion in their clients’ office, which include preparation and distribution of materials, and concluding the lecture with an open forum. Aranas explained that the most requested topics include tax updates, transfer pricing, how to handle a deficiency tax assessment, claiming tax refunds, how to draft an effective contract, and quick guides to tax compliance in the Philippines.
At present, the firm’s roster of clients are composed mostly of foreign companies doing business in the Philippines. He also helps local companies and even individual professionals such as doctors, architects and engineers.
Recently, Aranas said that he did notice a spike in inquiries owing perhaps to the fact that the country’s Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has gone into overdrive in its efforts to collect more taxes. In general, it is difficult to be a tax lawyer, he said matter-of-factly, because of the huge amount of corruption that had become the practice in the country for many decades now.
He said that this is because of so many gray areas in the system, and the public mostly are not aware of the tax laws that are put in place. Another problem he said is that there is so much power and leeway given to tax collectors, while their pay is not commensurate to the job that they handle. As a result, there are some who are tempted by unscrupulous businessmen who don’t want to pay the right taxes.
In the next few years, Aranas said that he sees the firm expanding, as companies become more aware of the increasing importance of putting their finances in order, including the proper handling of taxes. Currently, he said that their firm has a roster of 15 lawyers, and they are looking to scaling it up to around 20 in the near future. He also sees the firm becoming more aggressive in their advocacy to help fight corruption by doing things right.
Need to cleanse system
When asked what he thinks of the present BIR, he minces no words by saying that the bureau is still as corrupt as ever, despite its public relations bravado. “Look at the policies being handed down by the bureau recently. Many of these are anti-taxpayers and it provides fertile ground for corruption,” Aranas said.
He said that it will take so much more to cleanse the system, and he certainly feels the current public sentiment that much of the taxes we pay are still being funneled into corrupt hands.
Right now, he said that the firm is quite busy with year-end paperwork for their clients, as well as helping some with their road shows. Next year will even be a busier time for them as they will help their clients prepare for the filing of taxes for 2014.
Looking back, Aranas admits his career path was one big irony. “I didn’t even want taxation as a law student, and when I took the bar, I flunked twice and wanted to jump off the window because I hated answering the questions on taxation.” But he told himself that he was going to deal with his biggest challenge head-on, and that attitude changed his life. In retrospect, he said that he believes in the saying that “people bloom in the fullness of time, in the proper season.” And now, Aranas said that he is ready to deal with even bigger challenges, especially in espousing his anti-corruption advocacy in dealing with taxes in the Philippines. Amen to that.