The implementation of the first package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) on January 1 was met with mixed reactions and criticisms. Most economists welcomed its enactment stating that it is a radical step towards making our tax collection at par with other countries. But progressive groups met it with an uproar stating that the poorest of the poor will be the ones most vulnerable to it as it increases the prices of some goods and necessities that they consume. Even the netizens have expressed their disdain online, posting different opinions, data, and infographics for the public to understand its effects especially to the poor. However, a more comprehensive, interactive, and informative discussion by some experts on TRAIN is needed for the students, professionals, and the common people to understand the full extent of its effects to different sectors and know what they can do to bring positive impact in the country, especially those that will be most affected by it.
TRAIN, also known as the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), was proposed by the Department of Finance (DoF) to overhaul the country’s “outdated” tax system and make it simpler, fairer, and more efficient. But apart from it, it was also proposed to be a crucial funding component of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build, build, build” program which will pave way for the “Golden Age of Infrastructure,” according to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. Through TRAIN, DoF envisions every Filipino contributing in funding more infrastructure and social services to eradicate extreme poverty and reduce inequality towards prosperity for all. According to them, TRAIN addresses several weaknesses of the current tax system by lowering and simplifying personal income taxes, simplifying estate and donor’s taxes, expanding the value-added tax (VAT) base, adjusting oil and automobile excise taxes, and introducing excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
With these visions of TRAIN, progressive groups see a problem in how the new tax system wants to achieve them. There might be a reduction of taxes, one of which is the personal income tax, the most popular part of the law, but there will also be an increase and even addition of new taxes in the form of an excise tax on sweetened beverages and non-essential services such as cosmetic procedures. The products with increased excise taxes include cigarettes, petroleum, mineral products, documentary stamp taxes, and automobiles. It is also important to note that even if some taxes will generally reduce, taxes such as personal income will remove exemptions and premium for health insurance while taxes on estate and donors will implement a net rate instead of a range of rates before. Most of these reforms will negatively affect the poor, according to different groups such as the economic think-tank IBON Foundation.
In line with ACLE 2018, the Initiative for Genuine Involvement, Transparency and Empowerment- NCPAG (IGNITE-NCPAG) takes full effort in shedding light on these issues as we bring TRAIN: The Breakdown. A panel discussion on the effects of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) to various sectors.
TRAIN: The Breakdown is an event that aims to inform the public and raise their awareness about the current implementation of tax reform in the country. Since the audience will be comprised of mostly college students, the discussion regarding what they can do on issues regarding TRAIN especially for the poor will be highlighted. Furthermore, TRAIN: The Breakdown will also feature an open forum to enable the audience and the resource speakers to engage in a participative exchange of ideas. More than educating and raising awareness, TRAIN: The Breakdown aims to empower each participant to actively involve in bringing positive change to the country in the context of the new tax system.