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ELECTION DUTY

Scrap 5% tax, teachers ask BIR anew

MANILA, Philippines — One week before the midterm polls, public school teachers are calling on the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to scrap the 5-percent tax it began imposing last year on compensation given to teachers with election duties.

The BIR has yet to act on a petition filed by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in May 2018 against the tax, the group said, and has worsened matters by failing to refund entry-level teachers — who are supposedly exempt from the charge — after more than a year.

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The levying of a tax on the honorariums for election service, a voluntary and often hazardous task, has “brought forth a string of problems” and caused “bitterness to teachers as they perform their otherwise noble and nationalist duty,” said ACT election hotline spokesperson Ruby Bernardo.

Teachers have prepared to troop en masse to the BIR on Monday in a show of force against the tax.

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Those who chair the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) receive P6,000 for their service, while electoral board members are given P5,000.

Public educators have come to rely on this compensation to supplement their low salaries and ease the weight of rising debt.

Electoral service reform

The euphoria from the passage in 2016 of the Electoral Service Reform Act, which raised compensation for election service, was blunted last year when the BIR found for the first time that the compensation was considered a form of income — and thus subject to taxation.

“As if TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law excise taxes are not burdensome enough, they also want to take away from the minimal pay given to teachers who risk their safety and sacrifice their rest time to perform their election duties,” Bernardo said.

The tax was automatically deducted from honorariums and travel allowances given after the May 2018 barangay elections, even to supposedly tax-exempt teachers.

ACT said those teachers were forced to complete a laborious, paperwork-heavy process in order to receive refunds.

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No refund yet

One year later, however, the group said teachers in 10 regions in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao still had yet to obtain a refund.

“It is incomprehensible why it would take a year for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to refund the tax deductions due teachers,” said ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio.

Teachers on an entry-level salary receive an annual income lower than P250,000, a bracket that is exempt from income tax under the TRAIN law.

“They have already risked life and limb in facilitating the people’s exercise of their right to suffrage,” Basilio said. “Why should they be made to suffer the tedious process and delayed release of tax refunds?”

In a statement, ACT urged the Comelec and the Department of Education to coordinate with one another in determining teachers who should be spared from the tax.

At the onset of BEI member nominations and appointments, both agencies are provided with information on the position held by participating teachers, Bernardo said.

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TAGS: 2019 elections, ACT, BIR, poll servers, tax on election service honoraria, teachers on election duty
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