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Panel OKs cut in frontliners pay earned from COVID duty

THE House committee on ways and means on Monday approved in principle a substitute bill to House Bill 7351, which will provide a 25% discount to the personal income taxes (PIT) owed by the coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) medical frontliners from income earned in the line of duty.

In his remarks upon the approval of the measure, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, panel chairman, said the committee made the move “because we do not want to tax the hazard pays and other allowances earned by the frontliners from COVID-19.”

“The 25% discount will likely cover the taxes they would have owed on their COVID-19 allowances. That was the state’s attempt to compensate them for their service. Let me be clear: I do not want the government to tax their heroism,” Salceda said.

The revenue implication of the original proposal, a full tax exemption, was P9 billion, according to a position paper sent by the Department of Finance (DOF). The tax panel’s Senior Vice Chair, Rep. Estrellita Suansing, suggested the 25% discount as a compromise.

The exemption granted in this proposal will only cover the salary or compensation, as well as the gross receipts from the exercise of profession or employment received by frontliners for Taxable Year 2020.

The exemption will not cover income received by medical frontliners from their other businesses, investments and other kinds of passive income not related to serving, treating caring, aiding, assisting COVID-19 patients

To help frontliners file their income taxes on time given the potential changes in their tax calculations, the Secretary of Finance will also be given the authority to extend tax filing by six months.

Salceda also said that the House tax panel hopes to “bring to light the fact that we need to compensate frontliners enough and on time.”

“COVID-19 nurses in many provinces have not yet been paid in full. The most important element of our fight against COVID-19 are our medical frontliners. If we do not invest in them their due, we will not win.

This is a matter of national and moral duty. I call on the DOH to expedite the payments,” Salceda said.

Salceda added that the House will look into underspending among agencies given Bayanihan II budgets.

“We are seriously looking into the burn rate of these agencies. If they cannot spend it on time, we will just go straight for the cash transfers that we propose under Bayanihan III. Slow government spending in a time of dampened demand is unacceptable,” Salceda remarked.

“Pay our nurses. That’s non-negotiable,” Salceda said.