Cesar V. Purisima

Why BIR asking for SLAN is just wrong

Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima signed an order granting the Bureau of Internal Revenue the ability to collect your Statement of Assets and Liabilities. This is for people who make 500,000 pesos per month. The move comes so the government can figure out if you’re fudging your returns.

For most people, employees and all that corporations handle filing taxes. At the end of your paycheck, taxes has already been deducted.  Now the half a million threshold, that’s not affluent.  In fact, it isn’t a whole lot of money to begin with.  Half a million a year, is perhaps the baseline for what you would call, middle-class.

What this does is similar to the brevity of planned laws from Sim Card registration to even registering your laptop.  Government wants us to do their work for them.  They want it wrapped in a nice gift wrapped box, and boom, here is your job.  That’s not suppose to happen.  Most of the people in the threshold can hardly keep up.

One can understand the motivations of the government.  It wants to understand the underground economy.  It wants to understand where all the money that is suppose to go into government coffers, but don’t.  Government needs income to keep the basic services that people demand it give them.

It is far, far easier to accept having to file a statement of assets and liabilities when it becomes pretty clear that those driving SUVs in Congress are properly taxed.  Is Chavit Singson for example paying taxes?  Manny Pacquiao?  How about the taxes filed by Representative Gloria Arroyo?  How about Joseph Estrada?  The generals of the armed forces of the Philippines for example, why isn’t the government looking out for how much taxes they paid for in the first place?

How about the gambling lords in Pampanga? Have you looked at their finances?

Government coffers are rather plain and dank and each person should give its fair share.  A teenage boy with no income pays taxes every time he goes to McDonald’s.  Call center agents who make a lot of money, spend money and keep the economy going.  In many ways, the government common acts like the mafia. It needs to take a slice of everyone’s pie.

Asking the middle class to file statements of assets and liabilities is oppressive.  We want them to pay more, not less.  It seem rather distracting that it is the middle class that the government want to pursue first.  The government should focus its attention on really big earners, and those in positions of power.  It will make it easier to ask for people’s SLAN when there is a proven track record to begin with, and not shift the burden to a middle class that can’t afford to.  SLAN for people who earn half a million a year, seems like putting the burden on people to do the job that BIR is supposed to be doing. Shouldn’t things like SLAN be a private matter, and records like that, should require a subpoena, why else do we have a bank secrecy law, if the information is already out in the street?

Even if we can argue that BIR agents are above board, there is still something iffy about letting that information be so easily available.  Government officials are asked to reveal such information because they hold a position of public trust.  Normal people do not have that burden.  What troubles me the most is how government puts the burden on people to let them do their job.  Filing SLAN seems like we are assuming everyone is guilty until proven otherwise.  “Show me proof!” Government rages.  And when we look at how EDSA has rough patches, while some Congressman waltz past us in gas sucking SUVs, “That’s proof of our taxes right there.”

I urge the Finance Secretary to find some other way to strike balance protecting decent people, and going after the real culprits.  A witch hunt serves no one, and leaves a foul taste in the mouth.  If this is what a liberal president can do with his government, imagine what someone less benign would.  It makes one shake his head.  It seems this way is to circumvent our rights.  Set it up so the innocent are protected, not abused.  If you think half a million is a lot of money, think again.  This whole issue leaves a foul taste.  Whatever happened to privacy laws and bank secrecy?

UPDATE: @ageofbrillig notes that “@randomsalt I read RR2-2011. What’s required is not SALN, but an Annual Information Return. Sample AIR (PDF): http://bit.ly/eYZy4V

Revenue Regulation 2-2011, “Filing Income Tax Return and/or Annual Information Return Report for Individuals, Estates and Trusts.”

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