Calls mount for tax-free poll pay for teachers

MANILA Lawmakers from the House of Representatives on Wednesday joined the mounting calls to waive the withholding tax on the honoraria and travel allowances for public school teachers, who will render service in the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.

House committee on appropriations chairman Karlo Nograles backed the call of Education Secretary Leonor Briones for tax-free allowances for poll workers.

"I applaud Secretary Briones for standing up for our teachers, without whom these village and youth council polls or any election for that matter would be impossible. If Comelec would just give due recognition to the fact that the teachers are their indispensable partners in this endeavor, then they would find the increase both reasonable and necessary," he said.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue upheld its decision to deduct a 5-percent withholding tax from the honoraria and transportation allowances of the teachers who will work in the electoral board.

"During election season, no group of people in government sacrifices more than them; they deserve it," Nograles said.

"The stipend for teachers is not that big to begin with, especially when you compare it to the daunting task at hand. Sparing it from tax will be consistent with President Rodrigo Duterte's pro-people stance," he added.

Meanwhile, ACT Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro urged the BIR to positively act on the demand of the teachers to overturn its decision to impose a 5-percent withholding tax.

Tinio said he sees no reason for the BIR to deprive poll workers of their full compensation, noting that a majority of them are public school teachers earning below the PHP250,000 threshold that should already be exempt from income tax.

"Teachers deserve to receive the full amount of the honorarium after undertaking their high risk job as poll workers," Tinio said.

For her part, Castro said travel allowance should not be taxed as it is essentially not an income but actually a form of reimbursement for the expenses incurred by poll workers in the performance of their duties.

"We enjoin BIR to immediately issue a decision that it will not tax the poll workers' honorarium and travel allowance for election service. Moreover, we are calling on the Comelec (Commission on Elections) and all concerned government agencies to take all necessary means to guarantee that the improvements mandated by ESRA (Election Service Reform Act) are realized," the lawmakers from the teachers' group said.

The law provides for the following honorarium rates: the Chairperson of Electoral Boards shall receive PHP6,000; members of Electoral Boards shall receive PHP5,000; Department of Education Supervisor Officials (DESO) shall receive PHP4,000; and support staff shall receive PHP2,000.

The Department of Education said these honorariums are exclusive of an additional PHP1,000 travel allowance.

Other benefits include a minimum of five days' service credit; legal indemnification package worth PHP50,000; medical assistance of up to PHP200,000; and election-related death benefit amounting to PHP500,000. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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