Line of Sight | Crazy not-so-little thing called

ONE look–and your heart starts pounding through your chest like a big bass drum. In your tummy, butterflies are throwing a party. You’re seeing stars, and you feel like you’re floating in a dream. Just thinking about it keeps you up all night, tossing and turning in bed.

CHARLENE de Castro

CHARLENE de Castro

We all know that feeling. At one point or another, we were, or perhaps are still, afflicted—or rather, affected—by it. I’m talking about that crazy not-so-little thing called “tax.”

That’s how I used to feel every time I check my pay slip. With the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, though, I now feel nauseous every time I ask about the new prices of commodities (Hint: It is highly unlikely anyone will be putting down some sugar on you for free, Adam Levine.)

It turns out, love and tax are a lot alike. Heck, tax could very well be love, dare I say it.

Before you conclude this pure absurdity and head for the exit, hear me out.

Taxation, in essence, is the pooling and redistributing of resources so that society is better off. Progressive taxes are intended to shift the burden to those with a higher ability to pay, setting the groundwork for social justice by creating a wider and more equitable distribution of wealth. It is the citizens’ solidary efforts in nation-building by taking a portion of oneself—income earned by sweat and blood, and offering it for the common good; like carrying an injured person to safety until they are nursed back to full health and are a productive member of society once again. If that doesn’t speak love, I don’t know what does.

Three..two..one.. BOOM!

Like a moment of attraction, the TRAIN law took off with a glorious explosion of fireworks! The implementation of the law on January 1, 2018 could not be more fitting to usher in the new year with promises of brighter days ahead. Those who were under that midnight sky peppered with neon lights stood in awe and were swept by a wave of emotions—foreign, sweet, perplexing, but mostly hopeful and optimistic—especially for the anticipated revisions in the income tax brackets. Mid-income earners were the most eager, for there would be no more deductions for taxes from their salaries from that day forward. Ah, the magic of beginnings.

Tax, like love, involves compromise.

Alas, all the kilig that new love brings soon would wane; the smoke settles down and our vision clears. We now see that there are flaws to our otherwise perfectly imagined dream: For one, the increase in the excise tax rates on petroleum products doth sharply sting. With the increase in transportation costs, we can only expect an increase in the price of everything else.

But the danger is not so much in rising prices, but in the proliferation of mass distrust in the government. The frustrating automobile excise tax and other contentious provisions put the intentions of the law in a dubious light, creating widespread suspicion and further resistance, endangering the relationship between the country and its people. This relationship wasn’t as good as we thought it would be, and what was inherently one grand manifestation of love appears to have been perverted by the greed and selfishness of those who want to serve their own interests.

Nevertheless, it is a truth indelibly chiseled into the script of life that the genuinely good things will— inevitably come with the terrible things, and

Tax, like love, focuses on the good, believes in the best, and nurtures a grateful heart.

When it comes to love and, in this case, to love of country, often the challenge is remaining steadfast during difficult times and seeing through the imperfections of the law (while, of course, continuously improving the law and its implementation) in the name of all the good that is made possible through our sacrifices.

However, it can be tough to keep on loving when our taxes seem to be paid in vain, and we’re not getting the services we think we deserve.

It is in light of this predicament that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) took a rather pleasing twist in their tax campaign this year. Launched last February 12, 2018 with the slogan “Salamat Sa’yo”, the campaign brings the spotlight back to the true change-makers in society: taxpayers. Instead of the usual explicit solicitation of taxes that postures taxes as a burden to the public, the BIR’s approach acknowledges the common person’s significant role in the betterment of every Filipino’s life and society as a whole through our contributions, no matter how small. Through taxes, we are able to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and fulfill so much more of our moral responsibilities. That is the positive way to change the typical notion of taxes and to empower the Filipino people!

Sometimes, a little perspective can go a long way. Hopefully, it will be 20 years into the future when we can finally see the government projects that our taxes fund come to fruition.

Tax, like love, makes the world go round…

Paying taxes isn’t the most pleasant thing to do, especially when, most of the time, we feel like we’re not getting any benefits. But what we feel isn’t necessarily the situation. At times love works from the inside, and in silence. For the first time in years, the government has expressed a listening ear to the cries of the people with the passage of the TRAIN law; years of unrequited, taxpaying love are finally being vindicated.

Just as taxes are the lifeblood of the government, it is love that keeps us alive, in spite of countless evidence to the contrary. Our laws, which are a concrete expression of such love, are authored upon that very foundation. The increase in fuel taxes is intended to augment worsening traffic conditions while, at the same time, to reduce the use of fossil fuels in order to protect our environment. As a whole, the tax reform program is aimed towards inclusive growth, improved infrastructure, and public services for a more comfortable life for every Filipino.

Love, for our country and for our fellowmen, is the invisible thread that weaves us together in our shared responsibility of keeping a civilized society by paying our taxes and using them for the right purposes.

Love, in the form of taxes, allows us to make a difference and transform lives, because it propels us into action, however crazy and unconventional as its demands may be. All along we’ve been deeply in love, enough to have been paying our taxes despite hardly getting anything in return, enough to have been waiting and holding on to the hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

It is seldom easy at the start, and change can be daunting. But if we badly want change, perhaps we can afford being crazy enough to give TRAIN a chance and see where it takes us, with love as our compass.

Ms. Castro is an associate of tax advisory and compliance of P&A Grant Thornton, Cebu branch.  P&A Grant Thornton is a leading audit, tax, advisory, and outsourcing company in the Philippines, with 21 Partners and over 850 staff members with branches Makati, Cavite, Cebu and Davao.  For comments on this article, please email charlene.decastro@ph.gt.com or PAGrantThornton.marketscomm@ph.gt.com. 

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