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Imee suggests suspension of VAT, excise tax in oil products for PUVs

Senator Imee Marcos on Thursday suggested to the Department of Energy (DOE) the suspension of value added tax (VAT) and excise tax on oil products for public utility vehicles (PUVs), in lieu of a subsidy program that will cushion the impact of the recent oil price hikes.

During a Senate budget hearing, Marcos asked the DOE to consider her suggestion, considering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to the public transportation sector.

“In lieu of subsiding fuel cost… and mindful of the revenue effects of the wholesale suspension of VAT and excise taxes of petroleum products, is the DOE open to suspending VAT for the meantime and excise tax kahit PUVs lang instead of the entire subsidy program?” Marcos asked.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the DOE has yet to consider the suspension of VAT in their computations and explained that any tax suspension requires a corresponding legislation.

“Is DOE open to suspension of VAT? That one, I must say, I did not consider that in the computation and what I asked is the excise tax to be suspended, but all of these things, whether excise tax or VAT, I believe it  requires legislative action,” Cusi said.

At the early part of the hearing, Marcos said the suspension of excise taxes no longer requires an amendment or crafting of a law.

“Certainly, this is a mere suspension there is no amendment of the excise tax,” she noted.

Nevertheless, Marcos pushed the idea of tax suspension on fuels, but only for PUVs.

“Perhaps the suspension merely on PUVs could be a great help and we thank you for your support and your concern,” she ended.

In a separate text message, Senate energy committee chairman Sherwin Gatchalian suggested to expand the subsidy for PUV drivers.

“Another way is to activate the Pantawid Pasada program and extend targeted subsidies to PUVs during abnormal high crude prices. This can also eliminate the need to increase public utility fares that will eventually be passed on to commuters,” he said.

Senator Aquilino Pimente III, meanwhile, said authority to suspend imposition of taxes on oil products should be vested only to elected officials, specifically the President.

“If that power should ever be granted, it should be given to the President who is an elected official. That kind of power should not be given to an un-elected official,” he said.

On Wednesday, Cusi said the DOE is discussing with the Department of Finance (DOF) “the possibility to suspend excise tax for the meantime.”

However, he said this cannot be done through an executive order by the President, thus a new legislation is needed.

The Energy chief estimated that suspending excise tax can lower pump prices by around P8 to P10 per liter.

The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law increased excise tax on fuel in three tranches from 2018 to 2020, bringing the total duties to P10 per liter for gasoline, P6 per liter for diesel, and P5 per liter for kerosene at present.

Similarly, the TRAIN law has a provision of suspending the scheduled increase in the excise tax when the average Dubai crude oil for three months prior to the scheduled increase reaches $80 per barrel.

This provision, however, has already lapsed following the effectivity of the last tranche of excise tax increase in 2020.

With this, Cusi suggested amending the Oil Deregulation Law, which will include an authority for the department to suspend fuel excise tax.

As early as July, Marcos has been calling on the government to impose a one-year suspension of the 12% VAT on oil products as the country continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19.

She formalized this by filing Senate Bill 2320 which seeks to give the President the power to lower the rates or suspend the imposition of VAT on petroleum products for one year during national emergencies of state of calamities.—AOL, GMA News