FILIPINO-CHINESE TRADERS MAY STOP SCHOOL PROGRAM AFTER TAX EVASION ALLEGATIONS



[EARLIER PHOTO: FFCCCII officers led by President Tan Ching held a Groundbreaking Ceremony for the 300 settlement housing unit project to be called the “Filipino-Chinese Friendship Village” donated by the Chinese-Filipino community for typhoon ‘Sendong’ victims in Cagayan de Oro City. 09/21/2012]

MANILA, MAY 5, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. - Chinese-Filipino businessmen are still smarting from President Aquino’s allegations that some of its members have been evading taxes.

One member of the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) wondered aloud whether some of the socio-civic programs supported by the chamber would take a hit after the President’s harsh words during the 29th biennual convention of the FFCCCII in March.

Businessman Francis Chua said the leaders of the Federation have since reminded members to focus on their tax payments before making any contribution to the group’s socio-civic projects, one of which has been a highly-successful barrio classroom program.

Chua, a former president of the FFCCCII, stressed that the group would not want to discontinue its classroom program although the funding could dry up as members focus on their tax dues.

“The group has taken to heart the President’s admonition so it felt that this should be (their members’) priority. The group wants to end this misperception that its members do not pay taxes,” said Chua in a phone interview.

But an FFCCCII source said that big businessmen in the group had ordered a freeze in financing for this project because they felt it was unfair for the President to generalize the Filipino-Chinese businessmen as tax cheats.

Some FFCCCII members have disputed the President’s allegations, noting that most of its members were senior citizens who have retired from their businesses and that they sat in the chamber representing non-profit organizations.

The FFCCCII’s 53-year old “Operation: Barrio Schools” has been considered the most cost-efficient strategy to address the acute shortage of classrooms in the country.

The government spends P1.4 million for a two-classroom structure while the FFCCCII model costs only P400,000 to build.

The FFCCCII could afford to build the classrooms at a fraction of the cost of the government because its local members supply the materials and labor while the government has to go through a centralized bidding process, according to the businessman.

Earlier, Chinese-Filipino businessmen in Pangasinan also said President Aquino’s accusation that many of them were not paying correct taxes had hurt them, saying the President’s statement was unfair.

“Our members pay their taxes diligently and correctly as part of their conscious responsibility in helping government fund programs and projects to alleviate poverty,” said Rosendo So, president of the Eastern Pangasinan Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (EPFCCC).

So said records of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in Pangasinan would show that the top 100 individual and corporate income taxpayers were mostly EPFCCC members.

The EPFCCC is a nonprofit organization, which is a member of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII). It undertakes various civic projects to help the community, So said.

EARLIER REPORT FROM ABS-CBN

PNoy chides Tsinoy bizmen for dodging taxes ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 03/23/2013 2:06 AM | Updated as of 03/23/2013 2:06 AM


 
[AQUINO: “What this means is 354 out of 552 members--or 64 percent of you--did not pay taxes for the same reasons: no TIN, no tax due, or nothing filed at all.” “In fact, of those who filed and paid income taxes, a lot of you paid less than 100 thousand pesos. There were some who paid less than one thousand pesos in taxes,” he said.]

MANILA – President Benigno Aquino III on Friday chided Filipino-Chinese businessmen who do not pay the correct taxes or do not pay any income tax at all.

Aquino, who was guest of honor at the convention of the Federation of the Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII), brought up what he called a "bit disconcerting" report from Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares.

“Based on your own 2011-2013 directory, I understand that your federation includes 207 firms and organizations as members. Of this 207, I am told, only 105 have a Tax Identification Number. I wonder what happened to the others,” Aquino said.

The president added that of the 105 firms in the FFCCCII, only 54 have filed tax returns.

“To make matters worse, 38 firms and organizations actually filed returns with zero tax due. This means that only 16 out of the 207--or only around eight percent--of your member-organizations paid taxes. The 6.6 [2012 GDP] growth did not seem to affect your members,” said the president.

“Now, there are also 552 of you who are individual members. And of this number, 424 of you have Tax Identification Numbers. It is interesting to note that of that number 185, or almost 44 percent, filed income tax returns,” he said.

Of those who filed tax returns, he said "at least only 14 filed returns with zero tax due."

“What this means is 354 out of 552 members--or 64 percent of you--did not pay taxes for the same reasons: no TIN, no tax due, or nothing filed at all.”

“In fact, of those who filed and paid income taxes, a lot of you paid less than 100 thousand pesos. There were some who paid less than one thousand pesos in taxes,” he said.

He reminded the group that there is now a national government that can be counted upon and continue to fight corruption.

“The money you pay to government now also goes to classrooms, teachers, textbooks, healthcare, food, disaster relief, and other initiatives that ensure that our people are given the opportunity to live dignified lives. When they are healthy, when they do not lack for education, when they are secure in the knowledge that they are cared for by the state-these same people will constitute a workforce that is more productive and can definitely spur the growth of your very own companies. So you see: the taxes you pay are not lost in some black hole. They redound to real, concrete benefits for businessmen like yourselves, and for the rest of our people,” he said.

The government says tax-dodging is a serious problem in the Philippines, where, along with corruption, poor tax collections leave the state unable to pay for basic services and improve facilities like roads and airports.

The FFCCCII is an influential group of businessmen. Its members also control large swathes of the Philippine economy and make up about half of the country's 40 richest individuals in the annual Forbes magazine list. Some of them are also campaign donors of politicians seeking both local and national posts.

Since Aquino was elected under an anti-corruption platform in 2010, the justice department and the tax bureau have been aggressively filing tax evasion charges against wealthy business people as well as celebrities.

"Gone are the days when your taxes disappeared into the pockets of an unscrupulous few, or when bending the rules may have been the only way for otherwise honest companies to keep operating," Aquino told the association.

"There is still time," he added.

Aquino urged the group's members to file their income tax returns by April 15, the annual deadline for paying taxes due the previous year.

“Today, I am appealing to you to correct the situation and fulfill your civic duty. There is still time. After April 15, you will have to deal with Commissioner Kim Henares herself and with Secretary Leila de Lima at her back. Again, please bear that in mind: April 15,” he said. -- with a report from Agence France-Presse


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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