by ERNESTO T. SOLIDUM
Taxes are the lifeblood of government administration. Hence, it must be promoted and developed efficiently to meet optimum public expectations. It is in this context that tax collection executives of a province did when they rallied for support and cooperation to citizens increasingly alienated by corruption in government. The guests at the Kapihan on August 27, 2011 are Ms. Jocelyn R. Reyes, Chief Land Tax Dept and Mr. Rey R. Villaruel, OIC Asst. Provincial Treasurer of Aklan who discussed the topic "Real Property Tax Administration".
According to Villaruel, Aklan’s budget in 2010 totaled P800 million. About 40 percent of which came from local source and the balance from Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). The major source of local income is the local property tax of P150 million and traders’ taxes from commercial and industrial establishments. Taxation code for real properties exact 2 percent of total assessed value from landowners. Out of this collection, 50 percent constitute the general fund and another 50 percent is Special Education Fund (SEF). Tax sharing arrangement are 35 percent for the province, 40 percent for the municipality and 25 percent for the barangay.
"Actually, we have surpassed our collection target by 14.5 percent, an amazing feat acknowledged by Treasury officials in Western Visayas. Nevertheless, our idealistic focus is P280 million worth of real properties collectible from taxpayers each year. Presently we have delinquent taxpayer cases for the last 10 years which we hope to solve through legal and technical innovations. This is the main reason why Aklan is highly dependent on the IRA to the extent of 75 percent", explained Villaruel.
"A compelling reason why we are adopting a coercive approach to conduct the second round of sale at public auction on November 18, 2011 is that our performance is still wanting. From our initial experience last year from 63 property units involved in the transaction, 14 were actually sold and 14 retained by the province. The interesting part is that majority of dispossessed landowners moved with resoluteness to buy back their properties either on cash or installment basis which is allowable provided it is done within a year. We mean business and this we want to project if results are not acceptable. Under the guidelines, Tax Collectors are deemed administratively liable if taxpayers are remiss in their payments after a year", underscored Villaruel.
Ms. Reyes explained that the process of public auction involved three things namely: a) sending notice of delinquency to taxpayer, b) warrant of levy, and c) notice of sale. In each of those segments, feedback is generated such as cases of absentee landowners and failed written advice. However, we respond with understanding and tolerance if indeed cause of delinquency is valid.
Unlike in the past decade, policy is on condonation but it tends to spoil the taxpayers and the best interest of the government. Presently, we require all 17 municipal treasurers to submit at least 15 worse cases to be included in this year’s public auction at the provincial capitol.
For those interested to participate in the scheduled event, we have our website, publication in the regional and provincial tabloid and TV/radio slots. Curiously, we have interested bidders all over the country determined to own real property in Aklan, said the lady executive.
Collection agents traditionally face a stiff wall of resistance from erring taxpayers. Hide and seek tactic is most common and feigning ignorance is convenient to some. Others simply ignore written notice of delinquency until it is too late. Indeed, it is incredible that our simple obligation to pay our taxes to the government should involved sanctions and heartaches.
One should be reminded that when taxes are paid religiously, the government can operate efficiently. Of course there are persistent reports of politicians squandering the people’s money but under present civil service laws and penal code defining transparency and accountability they can be charged for economic sabotage depending upon the gravity of the offense.
From the 2 percent of annual land tax collected, 1/2 is allotted for SEF. To illustrate, of the P150 million land tax collections, P75 million go to SEF. The local school board composed of the Municipal Treasurer, Municipal Mayor and DepEd District Supervisor manages the fund.
It is welcomed development that idle agricultural lands are taxed 5 percent instead of the usual 2 percent. This is a sensible approach to coaxed landowners to expend their energies on food production while a great number of our population starves. In essence, we are stewards of everything we have and idle land is considered waste of valuable resources. Besides, it creates problems on public health and safety, and harbors pests and diseases deleterious to crops and livestock.
The provincial treasury is doing a Herculean job to inform, educate and collect taxes in order to meet expanding need for vital socio-economic infra. Impending plan is to adopt the I-tax piloted in Negros Oriental and now actively participated in by 15 provinces. Financed by a grant of the German government is proven successful using mobile electronic gadget like tablet with Global Positioning System. Under the program, all taxpayers will be provided individual gadgets at subsidized prices, status of accounts easily accessible and paid by wire to Municipal Treasurer’s Office. It is believed that all 79 provinces in the country will avail of this new technology to enhance tax collection efficiency. Moreover, tax collectors and administrators undergo periodic in-service trainings to improve professional competence.
Success in these endeavors could propel the province and the country to unprecedented heights. The Staff of Ms. Zuzzette Pioquid, Provincial Treasurer deserves heartfelt congratulations for winning coveted prize on tax collection in Western Visayas. /MP