December 1, 2016
This post originally appeared on DAI.
Despite the Philippines being among the first countries to introduce electronic tax filing opportunities more than 15 years ago, only 8 percent of its tax returns in 2013 were e-filed. By comparison, e-filing rates in peer countries range from 70 to 100 percent. But the Philippines is catching up.
With assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Facilitating Public Investment (FPI) project, the Philippines Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has taken giant strides. In two years, BIR achieved a nearly seven-fold increase in the number of tax returns e-filed, from 1.5 million returns in 2013 to 10 million in 2015. There are early indications that the number will reach 16 million returns in 2016 when 75 percent of all tax returns will be e-filed.
After witnessing painfully long lines of taxpayers in April 2015, the BIR moved quickly to unveil an improved e-filing solution. Two months later, it released eBIRForms, software that enables faster uploads of tax forms, greater reliability, and enhanced security.
Eligible taxpayers can avoid long lines by simply downloading the e-filing software, filling out the appropriate BIR form, and clicking “submit.” Taxpayers receive a message confirming their successful submission. In less than an hour, the taxpayer should receive an email from BIR confirming receipt, which serves as proof of compliance.
The team from FPI and its local partners worked behind the scenes to build consensus on issues such as the importance of e-filing, and to expand the capacity of the older e-filing system, develop and promote the new software, produce taxpayer guides, advocate for relevant regulations, and conduct a public awareness campaign. As a result, the traditional long lines at tax offices during peak filing periods have largely disappeared.
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