Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Doctors and Taxes and Hate, Oh My!


So the Bureau of Internal Revenue recently started relying on advertising to push for proper tax collection. And as with everything tax-related, their efforts have been met with a rather incensed response from the public, especially after the ad you will see below:

20140304-bir-doctors
The face of discord. Taken from Rappler.

Now, let’s get this out of the way first: this approach is divisive, blatantly demeaning, and can be misconstrued as an attack against a select profession. I don’t think I’d want the government to focus on freelancers and pit them against, say, agency laborers. To pit two professions against each other when only a select few of one has been gaming the system is quite the bold move, and Kim Henares deserves a special level in hell for being so bold as to risk the anger of one sector of society just to promote taxation (and how easy it is to pay taxes, if their new website is to be taken seriously). Shame on the BIR.

But with that said,it’s time to play the devil’s advocate: the comparison depicted in this particular ad isn’t entirely untrue. Yes, it paints a skewed picture of the medical profession in the Philippines (and also of the teaching profession). That’s very, very true. But if you’re going to blame anybody for this stigma, you will have to go after the doctor who gamed his taxes. What the BIR is (rather clumsily) stating here isn’t something that didn’t come out on the news before.

There are two realities to consider here. The first is that not all doctors command such high fees, and not all doctors try to game the system. I cannot overstate this fact. I have doctor friends who are in the rank and file of their professions, and I can understand how painful it must seem to see their chosen path in life defiles like this. Some of them aren’t even earning yet.

But the second reality is that some established doctors have done this. If you’re in any medical profession, and you refuse to recognize this, then you’re not thinking with your head straight. This kind of tax evasion has happened in your beloved profession, and they have unfortunately tainted the white coat while they’re at it. That does not take anything away from what the rest of you do. It is what it is.

Kim Henares and the BIR, as much as we hate them for it, are only doing their jobs. They are also the biggest jerks in the land. The advertisement could have been better made, and could have been more tasteful. Not only did the BIR earn the whole government earn the ire of two sectors of society, they also showed that they care very little about the liberties of Filipinos, so long as they pay taxes.

But again, the devil’s advocate in me rears itself. Do I think the taxes we are experiencing now are justified? No. Do I think the government is using our taxes properly? Not even the least bit. But I do think that the umbrage against this specific ad isn’t fully deserved. Hate me all you want for it, but the truth is the truth.