’Tis the season to pay our taxes

December 30, 2013 – MANILA, Philippines – I have to admit it. I love what the BIR is doing. No country can progress without adequate state revenue. While nobody likes taxes, it’s the price we must pay to participate in, and benefit from a society.

Many are flabbergasted at the recent ads that publicize the highest taxpayers — and by virtue those who are noticeably absent — which the BIR is sponsoring in the leading newspapers.  I think it’s fabulous. Let’s put a spotlight on all of it. Nothing purifies better than a bright spotlight.

This approach is a proven tactic of the US Internal Revenue Service. In fact, it is fairly well established that each and every tax season, at least one prominent citizen — be it a top athlete or Hollywood star — is arrested and jailed for tax evasion. Why? To send a signal to the entire population that nobody is above the law. Tax avoidance is legal, but tax evasion is not.

Just watch in the coming February-April window in the US press. We’ll see at least one famous individual on CNN being led to prison in handcuffs.

It is imperative that the internal revenue bureau of any country sends clear signals. Who pays and who doesn’t. And that nobody is above the law. You evade your taxes and you go to jail — pure and simple. Doesn’t matter who you are, who your daddy is. How much money you have.

The Philippines is on its way. But there is an urgent need for everyone — particularly those at the top of the food chain — to pay their fair share.

The disparity between the haves and have-nots is pronounced. The GINI index measures the disparity of income within a society. A GINI index of “0” means perfect equality of income across all segments of society. A GINI Index of “100” means utter inequality where the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. The leading countries in the world, Denmark, Sweden, much of the developed world, have a GINI index of 24 to 30.  The Philippines sits nearer to the bottom with a score of 45. The worst are several African nations at 60+. Clearly, the rich may not be taking the fair share of the load.

This plays out when one looks at tax revenue as a percentage of GDP. The Philippines sits very low at a measly 14 percent. The US, with its low tax rates, sits at 27 percent. And most of Europe, nations more dependent upon higher tax rates, sits at over 40 percent.

It’s crystal clear. The data doesn’t lie.  If we want the Philippines to progress, we must drive tax revenue. And it is not a matter of taking more taxes from those who cannot afford it to begin with. The rich need to ante up.

This is the season for giving, for helping those around us, to lend a hand. There is nothing more hypocritical than to become enriched by a society yet fail to pay the dues back to the society that has given so much. Let’s give Kim Henares a Christmas present this year. Let’s pay our rightful share of taxes … if not for the BIR, then for the sake of the nation.