As the registration for the May 2022 polls opens on January 20, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is urgently calling for the passage of a bill that aims to grant tax exemption to the honoraria, transportation allowance, and other benefits of poll workers, especially public school teachers.
Gatchalian’s proposed measure, Senate Bill 1193, introduces amendments to the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 so teachers can receive the full amount of their honoraria and other benefits.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue started imposing a 5 percent withholding tax on poll workers’ election service honoraria and other allowances since the 2018 barangay elections.
The bill also aims to exclude their honoraria and allowances from gross income.
Gatchalian said the proposed measure is the best way to thank teachers and other poll workers for ensuring clean, honest and orderly elections in the country.
Under the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA), chairpersons of electoral boards are each entitled to receive PHP6,000. Each member of electoral boards receives PHP5,000. Department of Education Supervisor Officials (DESO) receive PHP4,000 each while support staff receives PHP2,000 each. A travel allowance of PHP1,000 is also allotted to each of these poll workers.
The ESRA, though, has no provision for tax exemption.
The lawmaker emphasized that despite the continuous service that these poll workers render to ensure the transmission of results, they still have to pay income tax if their annual taxable income, which includes such honoraria and allowances, exceeds the PHP250,000 threshold under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.
“Mahabang oras ang inilalaan ng mga guro upang siguruhin ang kaayusan at integridad ng ating mga halalan. Kaya naman inihain natin itong panukalang batas na ito upang kilalanin ang kanilang mahalagang papel para pangalagaan ang ating demokrasya (Our teachers spend a lot of time for the peaceful and integrity of our election. That’s why I proposed this bill to recognize their important role in preserving our democracy),” Gatchalian said.
Aside from the necessity of paying income tax despite the poll workers’ arduous work during elections, Gatchalian also lamented the process that they have to go through to collect their pay.
To collect their election honoraria and benefits, poll workers have to go to the local Commission on Elections offices and submit a declaration of exemptions if they earn less than PHP250,000 annually.
He said the teachers don’t have to go through complicated processes just to get their pay and other benefits.
“Kung hindi na papatawan ng buwis ang sahod at benepisyo ng mga guro tuwing halalan, hindi lang sila basta makakatanggap ng kabuuang bayad, mas mapapadali din ang proseso para sa Comelec (If no tax will be charged, they will not only receive full payment but the process also be hastened in the Comelec),” he added. (PNA)