Last week marked the most aggravating income tax filing I have ever had the displeasure of experiencing. The Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) implemented an electronic filing system supposedly to streamline services. Good in theory. Too bad it sucks.
I was done with my income tax return (Form 1701 for professionals and self-employed individuals) since mid-March. There are several reasons for this:
- I hate rushing.
- I only have two steady clients.
- I take the 40% optional standard deduction over the itemized deductions.
All this adds up to a really simple income tax return. But because of the rushed roll-out and the lousy infrastructure, the BIR’s eBIRForms setup resulted in even MORE wasted time and effort. But how much time and effort?
I completed my tax return using the offline eBIRForms software package and printed three copies for manual filing. This is what I did for my previous 2251M (monthly percentage tax) and 1701Q (quarterly income tax) forms. The messenger for our family business was going to file my return along with my February 2015 2251M in RDO 52, except that the BIR refused to accept my tax return because it was a manual filing. I was supposed to register with the online eBIRForms website and file the return online. Okay, fair enough.
- Register with the online eBIRForms – done!
- Use the offline eBIRForms software to export my tax return to an XML file for upload to the online portal – done!
- Upload the XML file to the online portal – WAIT!
No matter how many re-export + uninstall-reinstall combos I did, the exported XML file was corrupt. No, the irony was not lost on me.
I had to wait until the second week of April to do the filing myself because you know, I was busy doing my job. A pro tip when visiting your RDO: get queue numbers for the line you think you should be in and for the Officer of the Day. The line to talk to the Officer of the Day usually goes fast – or at least faster than the lines for actual transactions – so you’ll get to double-check your documents with the OD before you get to the head of the transaction line.
I was ready to duke it out with the OD using non-stop arguments that they HAD to let me file my return manually because their software was buggy. Instead, my consultation with the OD left me speechless for several seconds. The BIR staff, or at least the ones in RDO 52, knew that the software was busted! As per the OD, the exported XML file for Form 1701 is corrupt because they “hadn’t finished” the form in the software. AND YOU DID NOT TELL PEOPLE THIS WHY?!?! They told me to print out the confirmation email from registering to the online eBIRForms site and attach it to my documents so that they’ll accept my manual filing.
Needless to say, I didn’t have a copy of that confirmation email on hand so I had to hunt for a nearby internet cafe. Thank you BIR security guard and the guard at the nearby pawnshop! When I went back to file at 12:15pm, the staff in the ITR receiving section were out to lunch! When I caught someone about to leave, he told me to wait for them to come back at 1pm.
Me: “Di ba may ‘No Noon Break’ policy?” [Isn’t there a ‘no noon break’ policy?]
BIR Employee With No Respect for Taxpayers: “Sa States lang yan kasi mga robot sila. Di pwedeng ganyan sa Pilipinas.” [That (policy) only applies to the United States because they’re robots. That can’t be done in the Philippines.]
WTF WAS THAT?!?! The “No Noon Break” policy means that you guys take turns eating lunch so that your desks are never unmanned! The guy had the gall to tell me to go out and eat lunch and come back later. Aww hell no! I skipped my lunch so that I could be the first to file when they came back.
I breathed a sigh of relief when another BIR employee finally accepted my manual filing. I found out much later that I breathed too soon. When I submitted my returns, the BIR guy removed the attached 2307 (certificate of tax withheld) forms, saying that they “weren’t needed”. I found that really weird because you attach the 2307 forms to all of the tax returns you submit as proof that you’ve already paid tax on your income. What the guy didn’t say was that the hardcopies of the 2307s weren’t needed because you are required to submit scanned softcopies on DVD! *headdesk headdesk headdesk*
I want to be a good citizen and pay the “correct” taxes as mandated by the law (whether the existing tax rate is fair is another topic entirely). I really, really, REALLY do. But how the heck am I supposed to do that when the BIR makes it so damned hard?! And bonus: the March 2551M, 2551Q, and 1st quarter 1701Q are due on April 20.