Line of Sight | Destination: Unknown

TRAINS – there’s something fascinating about them. Perhaps it’s the rhythm? With a pace that begins slowly, its gears clickety-clacking along the tracks, moving gently again, then clickety-clack, until the train gradually regains a state of inertia. Or maybe because it mirrors the rhythm of life, the changes of pace, the ups and downs. It offers us a glimpse of the endless sky, before throwing us into a dark tunnel, our fear constantly hammering in our head. Then the tunnel ends, all uncertainties are forgotten, until you reach your journey’s end.

SARAH Romarate

SARAH Romarate

I think it’s because of these reasons, out of all possible acronyms, our lawmakers chose to name the Philippines’ tax reform as TRAIN. Our TRAIN, the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion Law, couldn’t be called less.

Just like in a train station, Filipinos have been waiting for TRAIN to arrive. It has been a long wait, a wait that has made people examine the ordinary and ask questions about things previously taken for granted. “Do we really need change?” said the woman in her black heels as she stood by the platform near the rails. A man in his mid-thirties shrugged at the question and asked, “Will it benefit everyone?”   Nearby, a group of people were thinking the same thing, “When is the train coming? We want it NOW!”

At last, the people hear the chugging engines and the roaring steam from the edge of the station. The crowds jostle and brace themselves as the train slows to a screeching stop. The train has finally arrived. Passengers scramble to find seats, hopeful that the TRAIN will bring them to where they long to be, at the same time dreading the possibility that it will take them to a place they never really wanted to go.

Like other trains, our tax reform started gently with the release of the first package. Other passengers may find it too slow for their liking, wanting this mode of transport to immediately carry them to their destination. Alas, that is not how the train works. Additional rules and regulations will be released gradually, until the train regains the state of inertia. The TRAIN will also encounter various stops, such as the second package of the tax reform and the implementing rules and regulations that are yet to be approved.

All that the passengers can do is hold on and trust the government. Hold on to their seats (or to their straps, if they are standing), lest they find themselves stumbling. There are already many issued regulations related to tax reform, and so much more will be released by tax authorities. Boarding the TRAIN without knowing the packages that come with it is like riding towards the unknown. You may end up getting lost. Aside from holding on, all that the passengers can do is trust, trust that the train driver – government officials – will usher us safely to our intended destination.

The train still has a long way to go. Nobody knows where it will lead us, but it is on the right track. Someday, our grandchildren would want to hear how we rode the train. Trust me, it is worth a bedtime story. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

Ms. Romarate is senior tax & outsourcing official of P&A Grant Thornton, leading audit, tax, advisory, and outsourcing firm in the Philippines, with 21 partners and over 850 staff members. It has offices in in Makati, Cavite, Cebu and Davao. For comments on this article, please email sarah.romarate@ph.gt.com or PAGrantThornton.marketscomm@ph.gt.com.

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