MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Wednesday issued a regulation that requires banks and other financial institutions to open the accounts of selected taxpayers suspected of cheating on their tax payments.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima signed the guidelines based on the recommendation of BIR Commissioner Kim S. Jacinto-Henares.
The still unnumbered regulations implements Republic Act 10021, allowing the BIR to provide foreign tax authorities with information they are seeking on bank deposits of individual and corporate taxpayers with dubious financial transactions, including money laundering.
The BIR is not, however, precluded from using the same confidential information furnished by banks in going after tax cheats.
Section 3 of the regulation states that “once information is gathered pursuant to a request for exchange of information under the international
convention or agreement on tax matters, the BIR is likewise authorized to use for tax assessment, verification, audit, and enforcement purposes, any such information obtained from financial institutions.”
It further declares that “for the purpose of exchanging information pursuant to an international agreement on tax matters, the BIR commissioner is hereby designated as the competent authority. Any such exchange of information shall not constitute unlawful divulgence of information under the Tax Code of 1997.”
It imposes fines of up to P100,000 and imprisonment of not more than five years for “any officer, owner, agent, manager, director, or officer-in-charge of a financial institution that willfully refuses to supply the required information.”
Henares argued that the implementing guidelines of RA 10021 do not run counter to provisions of RA 1405, or the Bank Secrecy Law.
Quoting Section 10, or the repealing clause of the new law, the BIR chief stated that “all laws, Presidential Decrees, Executive Orders, rules and regulations, other issuances or parts thereof which are inconsistent with or contrary to RA 10021 are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.”
It says that foreign tax authority may be allowed to examine income tax returns of taxpayers in the Philippines.
The regulations also stipulates that any information received by foreign tax authority from the BIR shall be treated as “absolutely confidential in nature and shall be disclosed only to person of authorities.”
But before the BIR could grant such request, the foreign tax authority must identify the person under investigation and the purpose for which the information is being sought.
The promulgation of the RA10021 and the signing by the Phlippines of separate tax treaty agreements with 34 countries prompted the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to delist the Philippines from countries considered as refuge for tax cheats.
The OECD, composed mostly of rich European countries, imposes wide range of penalties against their citizens and companies doing business with countries considered as tax havens.
Jun Ramirez, Manila Bulletin