The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) has joined the long list of prominent organizations from various sectors that have expressed their support for the proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN), saying that it passes its criteria of being highly progressive, consumption-based, and providing incentives for people to work, save and invest.
In an official statement, the AmCham formalized its support for this first package of the Duterte administration’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) that is now set for plenary deliberations in the Senate.
“The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) strongly supports the comprehensive tax reform legislation of the Duterte Administration (known by the acronym TRAIN) in its overall goals,” the group said.
AmCham also said it supports a tax reform that is “(1) fair, (2) progressive, (3) improves tax collection, (4) funds physical and social infrastructure, and (5) supports investors,” which are all qualities of the TRAIN.
The House of Representatives passed its version of TRAIN—House Bill No. 5636—last May 31. The Senate ways and means committee has passed its TRAIN version last Sept. 20 and the panel chair, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, has sponsored the bill for plenary approval.
AmCham said that in broad terms, it supports taxes that are: “(1) more progressive than regressive, (2) that incentivize individuals and corporations to work hard to produce income, to save and invest, and (3) that impose a significant burden of taxation on consumption.”
The proposed TRAIN aims to slash personal income tax (PIT) rates, while widening the base for consumption taxes such as the value-added tax and the excise taxes imposed on fuel and automobiles, among other measures.
According to AmCham, the TRAIN bill is fair because it adjusts current PIT rates that have remain unchanged since 1997 and corrects the “income bracket creep” that has resulted in employees taking home less pay every year.
“Our employees deserve to have the real purchasing power of their earnings returned to them in recognition of their labor,” it said.
The TRAIN bill is also progressive as “it raises more income through modest increases in taxes on consumption, such as reducing VAT exemptions, raising taxes on fuel, and increasing taxes on automobiles and other consumables,” AmCham said.
AmCham said the tax reform bill also improves tax collection because it facilitates the proper collection of taxes through reforms, which include requiring the use of electronic receipts and speeding up processing procedures of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and encourage investments by maintaining incentives for exporters.
Moreover, AmCham is supporting TRAIN because it will fund not only the physical infrastructure the country badly needs but also the social infrastructure that would provide Filipinos with better education, transportation and health care.
AmCham recalled that as early as January 19 this year, its organization, along with six other foreign chambers and eight Philippine business groups, have expressed their support for the legislative priorities of the 17th Congress, which lists TRAIN as the second top priority.
The group also cited the government’s pledge during the August 9 Sulong Pilipinas workshop–spearheaded by the Department of Finance–to spend the additional tax revenues collected from TRAIN to build 113,553 more classrooms; hire 181,980 more teachers between 2017 and 2020; and improve 3,714 kilometers of national gravel roads, 10,4732 kilometers of national asphalt roads, and 30,209 kilometers of local gravel roads.
AmCham also said that with TRAIN, the government also plans to irrigate 1.3 million hectares of land, upgrade 704 local hospitals and establish 25 new ones; upgrade or relocate 263 rural/urban health units; build 15,988 new barangay health stations and 2,424 new rural urban health centers; achieve 100% PihlHealth coverage with higher quality services, and hire 176,922 more health professionals.
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Besides AmCham, among the supporters of TRAIN from the foreign business community are the Nordic Chamber of Commerce, the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, Canadian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, Japanese Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, and the Korean Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines.
In the local business sector, among the TRAIN’s supporters are the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, Philippine Exporters Confederation, Makati Business Club, Mindanao Business Council, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Philippine Stock Exchange, Association of Filipino Franchisers, Go Negosyo, Citibank Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Bankers Association of the Philippines, Management Association of the Philippines, Deutsche Bank, Philippine Hotel Owners Association, and the Integrity Initiative.