BIR wants higher pay for its employees

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will ask to be exempted from the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) as it looks to hire more people to boost tax collections this year.

In his first ever press briefing since he took office last June, Tax Commissioner Caesar Dulay said he is working with lawmakers to raise the salaries of BIR employees.

Not only does higher pay discourage graft and corruption, but would also make it easier for the BIR to grow its workforce, according to Dulay.

Of the 21,000 job posts available in the BIR, only about 11,000 are filled, Deputy Commissioner Jesus Aranas said.

"How do you expect to hire more people, when some of our employees get paid as low as ₱9,000 a month? Our CPAs (certified public accountants) get about ₱14,000 a month," he pointed out.

Officials said the bureau needs to beef up as it rolls out a host of reforms this year, aimed at growing the tax base, encouraging compliance and running after tax evaders.

The BIR is responsible for shoring up the bulk of government revenues. This year, it is tasked to collect ₱1.89 trillion -- down by nearly 10 percent from the ₱2 trillion in 2016.

Tax collections made up 10.8 percent of the gross domestic product last year, level from 2015. It was the first time since 2010 the BIR had failed to improve that ratio.

Dulay admitted there's even more pressure on the BIR to meet its collection targets now.

The Duterte administration wants to invest heavily this year, particularly on infrastructure. The 2017 national budget stands at ₱3.3 trillion, nearly 12 percent higher than the previous year.

Of this, it will spend ₱891 billion on infrastructure -- a whopping 40 percent annual increase.

Threat of Attrition

While the BIR will fight for higher salaries for its personnel, it will also enforce stricter standards for collections this year.

Deputy Commissioner Nestor Valeroso told CNN Philippines the bureau will fully implement the Attrition Law.

BIR employees can be reassigned or even dismissed from service if they fall short of their annual revenue targets by at least 7.5 percent. On the flipside, those who exceed their goals can be rewarded with bonuses and promotions.

Those covered by the law include regional directors, assistant regional directors, revenue district officers, assistant revenue district officers, collection agents and the like.

Valeroso said, "The Attrition Law was put on hold by the previous administration because they felt the targets were too high. They were 'aspirational,' so it might be unfair to punish people for failing to reach them."

This time, however, the bureau is more confident the targets are realistic. He added, "The economic conditions are also good, so that should help with revenue collections."