Philippine gov't to probe importers' tax payments

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The Philippine Bureau of Customs must step up collaboration with counterparts from other countries to reconcile the disparities between records in the traffic of goods, according to Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima.

Purisima added that Customs needed to work closer with the Bureau of Internal Revenue to make all of the top 5,000 importers part of the top 10,000 taxpayers.

In a speech during the agency's anniversary rites held in Cebu earlier this week, the finance chief said these must be done considering that Customs has been a weak area in government financing.

He said that in the past two years, the bureau's collection effort went down from 2.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 to 2.8 percent in 2012.

This was partly because of the reduction in tariff rates, which Purisima said would continue in the years to come due to the country's international commitments.

However, he said the volume and value of Philippine imports have both been increasing.

To address this, Purisima said the government was looking at establishing a minimum value per container-whether for all or each category of products.

"We're looking at a value of about 1.5 million pesos (US$36,800) per 20-foot container, which means a levy of at least 300,000 pesos per container," he said. "On the assumption that there are at least 2 million inbound containers that are subject to value-added tax and duties, that's 600 million pesos."

Purisima said that for increased collection to materialize, Customs needed to invest in upgrading its information system.

He said the government must reconcile its trade data with those of other countries-a comparison of which normally showed that Philippine-bound cargo from a particular country was more than what Philippine import data showed.

"For example, data from China show that two-way trade with (the mainland) is valued at $32 billion, but our books show it is only $16 billion," he added.

"We'd like to work with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other bilateral partners to reconcile these numbers," he said. "I'm sure that if we're able to reconcile these numbers, we'll be able to set a benchmark that will give us a good chance in improving customs performance."

*US$1=40.6 pesos

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