Monday, November 19, 2007

Senate ways and means committee OKs more tax exemptions

Senate ways and means committee OKs more tax exemptions
By Veronica Uy
Last updated 04:59pm (Mla time) 11/16/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- The Senate committee on ways and means on Friday approved two bills seeking to give bigger deductions on estate taxes to allow heirs to keep the family home.

Senate Bill 285, which was sponsored by Senator Richard Gordon, increases the maximum allowable deductible medical expenses in the computation of the net estate for the estate tax from P500,000 to P1.5 million.

Senate Bill 286, also sponsored by Gordon, allows the deduction of the full current fair market value of the family home (exceeding P1 million) from the net estate of the deceased person if he or she leaves a surviving spouse behind.

“This intends to ease the burden of the surviving spouse from the ordeal of putting up cash to pay for the estate tax on the family home, especially after having suffered the death of the decedent, mourning the loss of the family, and shouldering many other expenses, particularly medical and burial expenses of the decedent,” Gordon said, explaining the rationale of the bill.

The senator said sick people tend to spend a lot of money during their illness and many are forced to sell their homes to spend for their treatment. The twin bills, he said, would ease the burden on the heirs, who are usually left with no family home left after all their assets are spent on the treatment of their sick relative.

However, Senator Francis Escudero, who chairs the Senate committee on ways and means, said that while his committee approved the bills, it cannot submit a committee report until the House of Representatives submits its version of the two measures.

“But at least one step is over. We’re on to the second step, the plenary debate when the House version is submitted,” he said.

Escudero noted that revenue measures like the national budget and tax exemptions need to start with the Lower House.

On the measure to exempt the bank deposits of senior citizens from withholding tax, the senator said senior citizens invited to the hearing themselves say that most of them don’t have money in the banks. He said the senior citizens are more amenable to the proposal to exempt them from the 12 percent expanded value-added tax.

“They said that the 20 percent discount they get as senior citizens are effectively cut down to eight percent because of the EVAT,” he said.

A bill seeking to repeal the EVAT from Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Ana Consuelo Madrigal was opposed by the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue at the hearing.

The DoF and the BIR argued that a repeal of the law would result in revenue loss of P76 billion.

“The BIR is currently computerizing its operations, and with this we expect higher efficiency in collection,” Escudero said, adding that the Senate would oppose any new tax revenue measures from the government.

He said he is waiting for figures from the DoF and the BIR on the effect of computerization on collections to help the committee in considering the measure to repeal EVAT.

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