Remembrances of paying income, property taxes
Beating last Monday’s deadline to file tax returns reminded me of a recent decision by Comelec. “Failure to file tax returns is not inherently wrongful in the absence of a law punishing it.” In crafting this, commissioners Aimee Ferolino and Marlon Casquejo were referring to 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1985. Bongbong Marcos Jr. had been found guilty of non-filing of RTI as vice governor and then governor of Ilocos during these four years. Notwithstanding disqualifications under election and tax laws, they deemed Marcos Jr. eligible to run for president.
I would have liked to have had the assurance of Ferolino and Casquejo not to have a penalty in the 80s. Every year, then in March, the media controlled by Ferdinand Marcos Sr. issued warnings of various penalties for illegally missing the half-month deadline. No one dared break martial law for fear of being imprisoned without charge, tortured and stripped of their property.
I was employed from 1981 to 1983 in the newspaper of Marcos’ brother-in-law, Ambassador Kokoy Romualdez. For three years, my W-2 compensation form showed that income tax was being over withheld every payday. All of us, employees, have filed RTIs. Despite my tax overpayments, the BIR never granted me a refund or credit for the following year.
It was like medieval times, when the king owned everything and heavily taxed the serfs on pain of flogging, being thrown into the dungeons and seizing the farms. Yet the lavishly living royal family was tax exempt.
Besides income tax, also deducted from monthly salaries, there was the SSS, run by a friend of Marcos; Medicare, led by Marcos’ brother, Dr. Pacifico Marcos; and Pag-IBIG, led by Minister of Human Settlements Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
A footnote to this job was that several employees and I were fired three days before Christmas 1983. In breaking up the new union, management fired the officers and five like me who were falsely accused of advising them. My wife was pregnant. Ninoy Aquino had been murdered and the economy was collapsing due to excessive government borrowing and marital plunder. With inflation the following year, Filipinos suffered spikes in the prices of food, medicine, and fuel. Baby supplements for my newborn have disappeared from the grocery store shelves.
Most Filipinos who survived this trying time have forgiven those who caused it and who benefited from it. Still the basis for clearing Marcos Jr. of tax guilt stirs memories.
Fathers then had a way of instilling taxes in young people. From the age of 13 in 1969, as the eldest son, I was assigned to line up at Quezon City Hall to get property and business assessments. I would come back a week or two later to realign and remit check payments. Male friends and cousins of the same age did the same for relatives in Manila, Pateros and elsewhere. Sweaty runs in the days when there was no air conditioning in buses and offices. A far cry from when Sonny Belmonte, after becoming mayor of QC in 2010, started serving espresso in a special taxpayer lounge. More difficult was the task of paying income tax for Dad each March; lines at the BIR building snaked up to two blocks.
Only six years after Dad’s death in 1980, the family was able to pay inheritance tax plus penalties and surcharges. We siblings inherited about 130,000 pesos each, enough money for me to take out a small mortgage. There is no escape from death and taxes. From retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, Filipinos are now learning that the law requires even the heirs of looters to pay income and inheritance taxes.