House bill filed proposing online tracking system for revenue agencies

A BILL has been filed in the House of Representatives proposing the establishment of an online tracking system to monitor the performance of the two main revenue-generating agencies, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BoC).

Albay Representative Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said House Bill No. 3261 creating the National Tax Transparency Portal “will allow stakeholders to audit government collections, compute the trade and tax gaps, and conduct research that can guide the decisions of economic managers, legislators, investors, researchers, and the public.

Mr. Salceda, who filed the bill on Monday, said he hopes the resulting transparency in the two agencies’ operations will curb corruption.

The BIR and BoC beat their collection targets last year by 0.5% and 4.70% respectively.

“The Department of Finance is in a perpetual race against the budget deficit, which has become doubly difficult on the heels of a 60.4% debt-to-GDP ratio in 2021,” Mr. Salceda said.

“With the National Tax Transparency Portal, the efforts of the revenue-collecting agencies will be recognized, and trust will be incrementally gained.”

The national government’s outstanding debt in June hit a record P12.79 trillion, equivalent to 62.1% of gross domestic product.

The Philippines was among the countries considered to have been the most transparent in pandemic spending last year, according to a survey by International Budget Partnership (IBP), a nonprofit.

The study cited the government best practices like weekly reporting to an oversight committee composed of legislators and other officials. It added that the government showed a willingness to continue public consultation during the public health crisis.

Sonny A. Africa, executive director of think tank IBON Foundation, has said that civil society organizations and the public should be included in discussing debt and government finance matters.

“The public should be involved… for the simple reason that it’s the public that pays for the national debt through their taxes and whatever the government earns using public assets and resources,” he said in a Messenger chat. — John Victor D. Ordoñez