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.

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Vacationer’s Return to Reality


There's always a disconnect between real life and reality when you're talking about two separate instances. In one, you're lounging at the foot of a beach, waves lapping at your toes, the sun baking you to a nice golden brown. In another, you're hastily preparing dinner for a crew of people who might not even eat. And finally, you're in a car, driving home against the backdrop of a setting sun, searching for a perfect spot for a quick dinner before the long haul back to the city, and away from what, in the last twenty-four hours, was your whole life.

Lano Beach - Savai'i

Lanoa Beach, Samoa. No, I did not go here. Taken from Wikipedia.

Life happens in snippets. We don’t always remember them, and we don’t always notice the transitions. Mostly because we’re usually traveling during these transitions. That commute to work separates home life and work life. That trek to your girlfriend’s house is a return to one of your realities. And stepping out of that car, or jeep, or tricycle, is like crossing over the threshold of these transitory things, and placing yourself, in situ, in another reality. Another day, another snippet.

You can only notice these transitions when you’re in a situation that’s alien from what you call your norm. For the laid-back homeboy, traveling to the beach involves switching the regulated pace of living at home for the frequent, but enjoyable, transitions between your abode by the sea to the sea itself. We don’t realize it because this is exactly what we came here for, and it’s not part of our routine, but this routine once again separates the homeboy’s realities into two. The alien nature of these two new realities, however, disconnects him from the reality he knows to be his.

For the adventurer, the workaholic, a day spent at home, traveling from room to room, might be considered to be another disconnect.

And when, finally, we are in that long transition away from the pocket universe of reality called a vacation, we suffer a wave of nostalgia, longing, and regret. The taste of a new reality different from ours is intoxicating, is invigorating, even. The ride back home is quiet, subdued, as we recharge our spent energies, reflect on the events of the twenty four hours, and prepare ourselves for our return back to the reality we envision as ours.

And, upon coming back, we realize that we haven’t really ever left.