Issue of December 3, 2017

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Group wants sin tax hike under Tax Reform Package
by Rimaliza A. Opiña

The tax reform bill should include an increase in sin taxes.

Vital Strategies, a group advocating for a smoke-free Philippines is enjoining the public to petition Congress to include in the proposed tax reform package an increase in sin taxes.

Vital Strategies Communications Manager Carlos Garcia said that while the Sin Tax Law helped in discouraging the public from smoking because of the increase in prices of cigarette, the increase will not be that significant.

Sin taxes were implemented in 2012. Garcia said from that time, several wage orders have likewise been issued, making the average income earner able to afford a once expensive product.

“We still have to step-up and raise prices. Tumataas din naman ang suweldo ng mga tao. Ibig sabihin kaya na ulit nilang bumili,” Garcia said noting that the Philippines is still one of the countries with the cheapest cost of cigarettes.

The World Bank recommends that the total tax burden should account for 2/3 to 4/5 of the total retail price of cigarettes in order to discourage its use and add revenue to the government.

In Southeast Asia, only Singapore and Thailand are said to have complied with the WB standards.

Garcia said if the tax reform package does not include a hike in sin taxes, only four percent increase can be imposed on tobacco companies next year.

There are 15.9 million smokers in the Philippines, consuming an average of 10 sticks per day. “That’s P159 million literally going up in smoke,” Garcia explained.

He said this could also translate to one million new smokers by 2022.

The Tax Reform Bill has been approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives. A bicameral conference will soon be called to reconcile the Senate and House versions.

The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion include reduced income tax rates, tax exemption for those with annual income of P250,000 or less; increase in taxes for sugar-sweetened beverages; adjustments in excise tax for fuel products; two-tier tax schemes for automobiles; and adjustments in value added taxes.

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