MANILA (Mabuhay) – Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares on Wednesday clarified the repeal of the law on bank secrecy is not a priority but the Philippines should initiate it now as it will be a global requirement.
“Sooner or later we will be forced to go into that whether we like it or not… Why don’t we start thinking about it now,” Henares said. She earlier said developed countries, such as the United States, have relaxed bank secrecy laws.
Failure to comply might eventually lead to the blacklisting of the Philippines, she said
“Ayaw man ngayon, mapipilitan ang lahat ng tao sa mundo na maging transparent tungkol sa financial transactions nila. Kung hindi ma-ba-blacklist tayo at hindi makakapagtransact sa financial market,” she said.
The proposed legislations now being prioritized are the Fiscal Incentive Rationalization Bill – which has been pending for 19 years – Tax Transparency Bill, Revenue Sharing Bill,and Customs Modernization Act, the BIR chief noted.
“’Yun ang (proposed legislations na sa) tingin namin may pag-asa na pumasa. Itong repeal ng Bank Secrecy Law, eventually dyan tayo darating pero hindi ho ‘yan ang priority namin ngayon kasi alam namin na maraming tututol. (Pero) kung gugustuhin nila pwede naman ‘yun,” she said.
On Monday, Henares said there was a need “to lift bank secrecy for tax purposes to help determine whether a person is paying the right taxes.”
The BIR failed to meet its tax collection last year, despite increased efforts to file charges against tax evaders.
Republic Act 1405 or the Bank Secrecy Law considers the unauthorized disclosure of information on an individual’s bank deposits as a criminal offense.
In the television interview, Henares said the law prevents BIR from checking whether a person is paying his taxes correctly. She said the repeal of the law would make tax administration more efficient.
She denied that the repeal of the law will cause a chilling effect on the bank industry. On the contrary, she said, it will provide transparency to financial transactions.
“At the end of the day kung wala kang tinatago, walang dapat ikatakot. Hindi naman namin titignan kung walang suspicion na may nangyayari. Sa dami ng taxpayer na minomonitor namin, hindi namin namomonitor lahat… ‘yun lang kung may suspicion o may tax evasion,” she said.
Henares said the repeal of the Bank Secrecy Law will not be used for political harassment.
“Alam n’yo ho kung talagang gustong gamitin ng tao for political harassment, ngayon naman pwedeng bayaran ,yung mga taga-bangko na ibigay sa inyo ‘yung mga information kung ‘yun talaga ang pakay. Kung gusto gumawa ng illegal, maski hindi pa ini-li-lift yung Bank Secrecy Law may paraan sila para makakuha ng information,” she said.
Unfortunately, she said, those with a legitimate purpose were given time getting the information needed because of the law.
Senator Sergio Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate bank committee, supported the BIR stand as a way of helping raise tax collection. (MNS)