A P48-billion government subsidy under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) bill package won’t save the poor from looming new taxes on fuel and sugar- sweetened beverages, among others.
Rep. Sarah Elago of Kabataan party-list and Rep. Arnolfo Teves of Negros Oriental gave the warning after congressional leaders announced that Train bill will be approved on Wednesday next week.
The Train bill grants income tax exemption to those earning P250,000 and below a year but increases taxes on diesel, gasoline, aviation fuel, kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, bunker fuel oil and sugar sweetened beverages, among others.
The P48-billion subsidy, which is 40 percent of the expected P120-billion revenue out of additional fuel taxes, will fund the social benefits program that will grant qualified beneficiaries a social benefit card and allocation for granting fuel vouchers to qualified transport franchise holders.
This government subsidy, however, is only good for three years since the increased fuel taxes will be staggered in three years.
How qualified beneficiaries of the social benefits program will be determined is not provided under the proposed Train bill.
“The subsidy is not reassuring because how can we be assured that this subsidy will reach those who are really in need of it? The best reassurance that the government could give is to show the people that it is taking steps in ensuring efficient tax administration and collection, and that the benefits of these taxes are enjoyed by the people,” Elago told reporters.
“As it is, the public is already having a hard time benefiting from the services funded by our taxes, and the lowered income tax is being held hostage by this Train bill by adding taxes on fuel and sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as on remittances and scrapping tax breaks for cooperatives, a heavy burden to the poor and the struggling middle class,” she added.
Elago is a part of the Makabayan bloc, which groups party-list representatives from Kabataan, Bayan Muna, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Gabriela and Anakpawis.
Makabayan bloc lawmakers have filed a bill lowering the income tax rates from 32 to 25 percent but decided against being co-authors of the Train bill because of the additional taxes provided for under the measure.
“This bill is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time because of the new taxes. This is why I call on our colleagues to reject the Train bill. The priority of the administration should be efficient tax collection and fighting graft and corruption,” Elago said.
“I will vote against it because I don’t believe this will spare the poor. The increase in fuel prices only means that the prices of basic commodities will also go up,” Teves said.
Elago said efficient tax collection bythe Bureau of Customs means P230 billion more in government revenues.
The Duterte administration, he added, should not secure support for the Train measure by threatening the public that the bill’s non-passage will jeopardize the government’s planned P1 trillion worth of infrastructure projects for the duration of the Duterte presidency.
“The public should not be blackmailed into thinking that infrastructure projects cannot be funded without new taxes. The poor and the middle class should not bear the brunt of the inefficient tax collection system,” Elago said.