'Discount card' to ease burden of proposed tax reform

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — Lawmakers eye handing out a "discount card" to the poor as a solution to the criticized tax reform bill deemed as "anti-poor" by some groups.

Quirino representative and Ways and Means committee head Dakila Cua said on Wednesday an "all-in-one" card to be issued to Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program beneficiaries would  give discounts for basic commodities, transportation, and even tuition.

READ: House eyes lowering of income tax

"Magkakaroon ng benefits halimbawa nalang po diskwenta sa public utility transportation, para sa pagbili ng gamot. Pero hindi po para sa lahat. Magkakaroon ng diskwenta according to what the government needs, what the President sees, kung sino tatamaan na vulnerable ng ating mga buwis," Cua said in an interview after a House caucus.

[Translation: They can avail of discounts for public utility transportation and medicines, for example. But not everyone can use this. Discounts will depend on what the government needs, what the President sees, and the vulnerable sector which will be affected by the tax reform.]

The discount card will be funded by 40% of the revenues generated by the excise tax on petroleum.

Critics of the bill say it is anti-poor since the lower class will not benefit from the lowering of income tax of regular wage earners, but instead will be burdened by additional taxes.

The proposed tax reform aims to lower personal income tax from 32% to 25%.

On the other hand, it will increase the excise tax on petroleum, automobiles, and sugar-sweetened beverages to offset a P140-billion loss, according to Finance officials.

The bill will also repeal special laws which exempts cooperatives and state universities and colleges from paying value-added tax (VAT).

READ: Tax reform bill critics: It's anti-poor

"Iyong aming makukuha mula sa mahihirap, ibabalik natin o isasauli natin sa kanila para hindi sila nahihirapan sa mga bilihin," Cua said.

[Translation:We will return the income we will get from the poor so they will not be burdened by the price of commodities.]

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas said lawmakers had until May 22 to submit their proposed amendments in the bill for consideration.

He added the House leadership planned to pass the bill on second reading by May 24, and on third reading by the end of the month.