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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Alvarez wants higher pay for BIR personnel to curb graft
17-February-2017, 11:58:43 AM

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has filled a bill seeking to provide better pay and incentives to employees of the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

House Bill No. 4973, filed last Feb. 6, was timely as barely a week later reports came out that many employees of the BIR are leaving the agency because of starvation wage. It seeks to remove BIR from the coverage of R.A. 6758 or the “Salary Standardization Law.”

Co-authored with Rep. Dakila Carlo Cua, the bill was meant not just to increase wages and benefits of BIR employees for its own sake but, more importantly, to eliminate corruption and professionalize the ranks of revenue officials and employees.

They noted that systemic corruption is a perennial issue that hounds the Bureau and many cases have been filed against erring officials of the revenue agency.

“However, for true reform to happen corruption should be addressed at its roots---low salaries and the lack of incentives that target the need of BIR personnel. If wages are too low for revenuers to support themselves and their dependents, the more likely they are to engage in corrupt behavior,” Alvarez said.

The two lawmakers noted that recruiting and retaining high-performing employees is a major challenge for tax authorities.

They noted that while salaries for entry-level lawyers and accountants are at par with the private sector, room for career growth is lacking.

For instance, they noted that promotion to Attorney III and higher positions is limited due to small number of available plantilla positions. And for those in these positions already, they can only hope promotions if they become Assistant Chiefs (Attorney IV) or Chiefs (Attorney V).

“As a result, in recent years, there has been a steady outflow of professionals and technical personnel in the Bureau,” Alvarez said.

Under the bill, the BIR is authorized to formulate its own compensation and position classification system, which ensures just pay and equitable wages for BIR personnel under the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.

Likewise, the compensation should be generally comparable with those in the private sector and in accordance with minimum wage laws. The new system shall be determined through a comprehensive audit of actual duties and responsibilities of BIR officials and employees.

There should also be a periodic review of government compensation rates, taking into account the performance of the Bureau, its overall contribution to the national economy, and the possible erosion in purchasing power due to inflation and other factors.

In addition to the new pay system, the bill also allows the Bureau to provide for other incentives to its personnel not provided under existing laws and Civil Service Laws, subject to the approval of the President.

Once approved by the President, the new compensation and position classification system will apply to all positions in the BIR. However, it prohibits any cut in the authorized pay of incumbent employees of BIR as of Dec. 31, 2016.