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Seniors cry: Why take away our VAT exemption?

By: - Columnist
/ 02:03 AM December 04, 2016

We’ve seen this administration bully women, kill impoverished drug victims, push for the lowering of the age of liability for criminal incarceration to nine. So, why should we seniors be spared from discrimination?

I imagine the conversation must have gone at the planning meeting like this:

“Hey, why not take away the VAT exemption from seniors? That shouldn’t be hard to do. Did you know the exemption costs the government P105 billion a year?”

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“Really? That settles it, then. And guess what’s the best part—the money will cover our losses when we give individuals and corporations their own tax cuts.”

Taking money from the old to give to the young and the vibrant, is like taking candy from a child.

Thank God for our wise Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio Morales. And bless her heart! She wisely warns all those in power, “Not because you can, you should.”

My husband and I, who like to call ourselves activist consumers, believe there’s always something we can do as a matter of right, no matter how inconsequential to the offender, when we’re not treated fairly.

As a rule, we boycott restaurants and hotels that exclude seniors from special promos; it’s patently unfair. One particular chain of restaurants, after reneging in midterm on the premium-card privilege for seniors, has not seen us in any of their branches since.

As for the removal of our VAT exemption, we can only remind the government we seniors were once part of the labor force, and paid our taxes. They should not look at us as discards and burdens to society in old age.

I bet both rich and poor seniors have somehow contributed to the betterment of society. But I guess they don’t really care.

My husband offers a simple take. He, rather oddly but aptly, proceeds from a quote from a eulogy given by a favorite writer of his, Red Smith, for a friend. “Dying is no big deal; the least of us will manage it. Living is the trick.”

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“Living to seniorhood,” my husband goes on to say, “is part of the trick, of the struggle of life. A VAT exemption is a paltry reward.”

Regressive

There’s a wise observation that the level of civilization of a country and a people can be seen in the way they treat their animals and their old people. Try to guess where we are in the words of the new government’s Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia: “A senior discount is regressive because not too many poor people reach senior age… In terms of purchasing or consumption, they don’t eat at restaurants or travel. They don’t benefit that much.”

Translation: “Give them cake.”

At any rate, here are other seniors’ sentiments about the taking back of the VAT exemption by this government, after the previous one had already given it to us.

Paid our dues

Araceli Z. Lorayes:

I don’t know of any senior—except for Carlos Dominguez—who isn’t mourning the anticipated loss of the VAT on the senior discount. He said that senior citizens were being asked to make “a small sacrifice” to help indigents and disabled, and for government investment in infrastructure.

He gave a questionable example of a senior spending P10,000 on a restaurant meal as someone not needing a VAT exemption.

I, personally, would like to know the piggy senior who can consume P10,000 worth of food all by his elderly lonesome self at one go in a restaurant. How many seniors, anyway, dine in five-star establishments versus those who eat at Jollibee?

In case he is not aware of it, restaurants deduct the senior discount and the VAT only from the food consumption of the senior or seniors, but not of the non-seniors who make up the balance of the P10,000 food consumption.

As a ratio of the total, the number of seniors who retired as wealthy businessmen and company presidents and top executives with hefty retirement packages is minuscule. The bulk of retiree seniors are not even middle managers, but rank-and-file employees, for whom every centavo saved in the form of discounts and VAT rebates is valuable.

The bulk of seniors live on limited income and tight budgets. No more 13th-month pay except from our SSS pensions, which aren’t all that great anyway.

We paid our dues throughout our working lives and in our sunset years we deserve some respite from the sacrifices, aka taxes, that we made during our income-earning years.

What help

Marquitos V. Roces:

The 20-percent senior-citizen discount is absorbed by the restaurant; the government does not reimburse them. Only the 12 percent VAT is reimbursed.

If the VAT is taken away, what help has the government given to senior citizens—none! In short the VAT exemption is the only benefit for senior citizens from the government!

‘Urong-sulong’

Malu Unson:

What is this urong-sulong?

Why does government want to remove these exemptions when they help lower the cost of transportation (taxi, local air and ship tickets), some basic groceries, meals in restaurants, and, more importantly, medical care (doctor and nursing care, medicines, medical aid).

At this stage in our life, when medical care is needed more, any help in lowering its cost is welcome.

The exemption on restaurant meals gives us the opportunity to have enjoyable moments, sharing meals with family and friends. It also helps those who live alone without much or any domestic help.

Are government planners so desperate (or lazy) to find new sources of revenue that they have to hit the senior sector?

Why not cut down on expenses instead? The number of government employees is huge—are they all really needed? Corruption and mismanagement—bribery, padded contracts, lazy or poor service—are still there. Natural attrition and streamlining of procedures and systems should work.

The President says citizens should assert their rights so that government employees are reminded of their duty—and who is “Boss.”

This is an assertion of a Senior Citizen Boss’ rights.

 Desperation

Linda E. Panlilio:

It smacks of desperation. Why remove a benefit of seniors who have earned this privilege?

Be creative; find other ways to raise revenues, for heaven’s sake.

My four different groups who meet regularly for lunch do not meet in expensive restaurants. The lunch get-togethers are for catching up and bonding; after all, how much more time do we have in this blessed earth (or in these benighted isles)?

In the course of the lunch, we counsel those who share their problems, and comfort and pray for them. If our unimaginative government removes the VAT exemption in restaurants, my various lunch groups will most likely meet once every quarter instead of monthly, and may suffer the loss of those who can hardly afford restaurant food.

Most of all, restaurant sales will surely plunge, thereby reducing the taxes the government earns from restaurant revenues.

Funding needs

Lydia Echauz:

I’m happy enough with my 20-percent discount. The 12-percent VAT will help the government with its funding needs.

No reason

Pinky Farolan:

Those who have reached the biological age of 60 have been given a definition accepted by our society—that of senior citizen. It is the age where it is presumed and accepted that one is no longer involved in remunerated work.

It is also presumed, accepted and included in our laws that remunerated work or income is taxable. That is fair, as this in turn is what contributes to keeping government basically operational.

When an individual retires, meaning he or she no longer works for remuneration, his or her source of living comes from various small sources—pension, savings, help from others.

Society has seen it fit, therefore, through government, to make a senior citizen’s remaining years as minimally uncomfortable, and decent as possible. So under R.A. 9257, senior citizens are given 20-percent discount on generic medicines, hotels, restaurants, recreation centers, theaters, cinema, concerts, medical and dental services, diagnostic and lab fees in private facilities, fare for domestic air, sea travel and public transportation.

There’s no reason, therefore, why these discounted items should be taxed, as doing so would negate the entire value system it was created for in the first place. When applying tax on anyone, the basic question should, therefore, be: Who is being taxed?

Need benefits

Tina R. Garcia:

Senior privileges and discounts gave me something to look forward to upon becoming a senior. Experience, however, tells me that, once given, benefits are hard to revoke.

If revoked, I will naturally miss it.

There are seniors living in nice villages, but in homes owned by their children. These seniors need their benefits. I would like to see seniors who have to take public transportation (bus, jeep, train) get their rides for free. This is a nice benefit for those who have paid sizable taxes in their younger days, but more is deserved by those in need of everyday financial relief in their golden years.

Besides, I can’t help but worry about where our taxes go once the funds are in government hands. There must be some way we can be assured they won’t be stolen by corrupt officials.

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TAGS: Conchita Carpio Morales, criminal incarceration, Ombudsman, Seniors, Value Added Tax, VAT, VAT Exemption
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