Gatchalian wants tax-free allowances for teachers on poll duty

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has urged his fellow lawmakers to expedite the passage of a bill seeking to grant tax exemption to the honoraria, transportation allowance and other benefits for public school teachers who will be on duty in the May 2022 elections.

In a statement, Gatchalian said that his measure, Senate Bill No. 1193, primarily introduces amendments to the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 so teachers can receive the full amount of their honoraria and other benefits.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue started imposing five percent withholding tax on poll workers’ election service honoraria and other allowances since the 2018 barangay elections.

The lawmaker stressed that despite the continuous service that these poll workers render to ensure the transmission of results, they still have to pay income tax if their annual taxable income, which includes such honoraria and allowances, exceeds the P250,000 threshold under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.

“Mahabang oras ang inilalaan ng mga guro upang siguruhin ang kaayusan at integridad ng ating mga halalan,” Gatchalian said.

“Kaya naman inihain natin itong panukalang batas na ito upang kilalanin ang kanilang mahalagang papel para pangalagaan ang ating demokrasya,” he added.

The bill also proposes to exclude teachers’ poll honoraria and allowances from gross income. Under the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA), chairpersons of electoral boards are each entitled to receive P6,000. Each member of electoral boards receive P5,000. Department of Education Supervisor Officials (DESO) receive P4,000 each while support staff receive P2,000 each.

A travel allowance of P1,000 is also allotted to each of these poll workers. The ESRA, though, has no provision for tax exemption.

Aside from the necessity of paying income tax despite the poll workers’ arduous work during elections, Gatchalian also lamented the process they have to go through to collect their pay.

To collect their election honoraria and benefits, poll workers have to go to the local Commission on Elections (COMELEC) offices and submit a declaration of exemptions if they earn less than P250,000 annually.

“Napapagod na nga ang ating mga guro tuwing halalan, kailangan pa nilang dumaan sa isang komplikadong proseso para makuha lang nila ang kanilang sahod at mga benepisyo. Kung hindi na papatawan ng buwis ang sahod at benepisyo ng mga guro tuwing halalan, hindi lang sila basta makakatanggap ng kabuuang bayad, mas mapapadali din ang proseso para sa COMELEC,” he said.

Gatchalian believes the proposed measure is the best way to thank teachers and other poll workers for ensuring clean, honest and orderly elections in the country.

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