By Joe Espiritu
Bohol Sunday Post
Sometime ago, there was a seminar in Real Property Tax collection. Having dealt with this problem for several decades in one of the major cities in the Philippines, we know that tax collection along those lines is daunting. In the first place, extracting money from taxpayers is practically like pulling his teeth, his healthy teeth, that is. Filipinos treat taxes as an unnecessary evil. Every trick must be resorted to, to avoid or evade taxes if he can get away with it. To collect, the property owner must be strongly informed that he has tax obligations to be paid and sanctions will be imposed until he had settled them.
The problems the tax collector will face are as follows: To collect, the owner must first be identified. The declared owner on the document may have long been dead.
The one holding the property may not be a direct descendant. Take for example the case of my cousin. He was transferring the property to his name but the property was declared under the name of our great, great grandfather. In other cases, the owner of the property has left for places unknown.
A survey of Real Property Master files of some towns reveals that most properties, particularly land, are declared under previous owners with unknown address. There is no way for the tax collector to contact the owner Present property holder sometimes refuse to pay taxes on land not declared under his name.Delinquent taxes are almost impossible to collect
. In the past, it had been a practice to transfer the name of the tax declaration to another without first collecting back taxes. It is presupposed that the present owner will assume the back taxes of the acquired property but most will not. The present owner must be presented with the history of the real property tax declaration with its back taxes so he can collect from the seller if he will not assume the tax accountability.
As it is, the tax collector, the Office of the Treasurer cannot collect because the Office of the Assessor cannot present the proper documents for tax collection, particularly the evolution of the tax document and the taxes that it had incurred.
It is possible to trace the history of a tax declaration. Real Property Tax Declaration histories had been generated when the ownership of the property is contested in courts. Lawyers demand this document. However, this cannot be easily done without computers.
At the last two decades of the 1900s, the Queen City of the South embarked on a Real Property Tax Delinquency collection program. A task force was created, a software system was engineered.. Real properties whose taxes including penalties were not paid since 1980 were printed out. Demand letters were personally sent to the delinquent property owners. Many property owners balked especially those who were considered influential. Threatened with confiscation and sale of the property to cover back taxes, the owners relented. There was one, who paid around twelve million but asked if the amount could be paid on installment. The treasurer agreed.
The logic is real property taxes, especially tax delinquencies cannot be efficiently collected without a system and political will. LGUs can generate revenues without enacting new tax laws. There are thousands or millions waiting to be collected only if a system is followed and the program strictly implemented. If tax collectors will not resort to computerization, better forget the whole idea. In the age of automation, we still insist on the pen and ledger system. No wonder the rest of the world has left us behind.