BIR urged to bring to Congress proposal to lift Bank Secrecy Law

March 25, 2014 9:34 am 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, March 24 (PNA) – The proposal of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to lift the Bank Secrecy Law should get approval of Congress, saying it has chilling effect in the banking industry, the senators said on Monday.

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III suggested that the BIR file a bill in Congress so that lawmakers can debate on it.

“I suggest the BIR draft and file a bill in Congress so we can debate on the issue. Besides, that’s the only way to do it,” Sotto said.

BIR commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henarez made the proposal to allow the BIR to check the bank records of suspected tax evaders.

Senator Grace Poe said the banking industry should be consulted on the BIR’s proposal as it may affect the economy due to ‘capital flight.’

“The matter should be studied. The banking industry should be consulted. The public might lose faith in the banks if their accounts are made open to scrutiny by the BIR,” Poe said in a text message.

“Anyway the BIR meantime has the ways and means to run after tax cheats pending any amendment,” she added.

Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, said there are laws which allow the BIR to run after the tax cheaters.

“That might be too much. The current exceptions to the bank secrecy law such as corruption investigation and AMLC powers, to private individuals, I believe, is sufficient,” Escudero said.

Escudero has filed a measure requiring all public officials to sign a waiver of the secrecy of bank deposits law.

Senator Nancy Binay expressed worry that the proposal might be used to commit crime or for political harassment.

”Can the BIR guarantee that the information will be for purposes and will not be used to commit crime or for political harassment?” Binay asked. “Anyway, the Bank Secrecy Law has exceptions.”

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, for his part, supports the BIR’s proposal but also warned for possible capital flight and loss of confidence in the banking industry.

“The benefits are better tax administration by eliminating fraud, misdeclaration and concealment of income for collection while the costs may include capital flight and loss of confidence in the banking system,” Angara said.

”But I think the commissioner is correct that the trend is towards an easing of restrictions,” Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means, added. (PNA)

FPV/JFM

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