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Solons want VAT exemption of system loss charge component in electricity sale

Two lawmakers are seeking the value-added tax (VAT) exemption of the system loss charge component in the sale of electricity by distribution companies and electric cooperatives to lower the cost of electricity.

Bayan Muna Reps. Neri J. Colmenares and Carlos Isagani T. Zarate raised the proposal, citing that the system loss charge comprises about eight percent of the total electricity bill based on the study of independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, and worse is subjected to the VAT coverage which further drives electricity bills up.

According to the lawmakers, system loss charge is that part of one’s electric bill representing the cost of electricity lost during transmission, pilferage and due to technical and administrative inefficiency.

Even pilfered power and the electricity used by the distribution companies, among them the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and electric cooperatives are passed on to consumers, hence the people are made to pay more than the cost of electricity they have actually used, according to the solons.

Colmenares said this practice of imposing VAT even on pilfered power and electricity used by distribution companies is baseless and unlawful because the people are taxed for goods or services they have not actually used.

“As a tax on consumption, the VAT ought to be imposed upon the goods and services people actually buy and consume. By its very definition therefore, the imposition of VAT upon this system loss charge is unfounded and illegal as the people are taxed for goods or services they have not actually consumed,” said Colmenares, a senior deputy minority leader.

In 2013 for instance, Colmenares cited that based on Meralco’s tariffs, which averaged 24 US cents per kilowatt- hour, the price Filipinos pay for their electricity is the fifth highest in the world. It also showed that electricity in the Philippines costs nearly twice that of Thailand and about five times that of Indonesia.

Colmenares explained that VAT is a form of sales tax and is an indirect tax. “It is shifted or passed on to the buyer, transferee or lessee of goods, properties or services. Being a pass-on tax, the burden of paying the VAT is therefore ultimately left upon the shoulder of the final consumers -- the consuming public,” he said.

Zarate said a study conducted by the International Energy Consultants (IEC), a Perth-based consultancy firm, and commissioned by Meralco showed that the rates in Luzon rank as the ninth highest electricity tariffs among 44 countries surveyed.

Per the IEC study, Zarate said the primary reason for such higher power rates as compared to those of other countries is the absence of government subsidies for electricity, unlike in countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, where the government subsidizes electricity rates. He said these subsidies comprise a large part of these countries’ public budget. In Indonesia, for example, energy subsidies account for 24 percent of its 2013 public expenditure plan.

“Against this backdrop, along with the rising prices of consumer goods and commodities, fuel, education and medical costs, worsening inflation, and unabated sinking of the purchasing power of the peso, it is high time that the Congress devise means which could readily help in keeping the pockets of Filipinos, especially those coming from the lower income class, from completely running dry,” said Zarate.

In House Bill 5543, which is now pending at the House Committee on Ways and Means, the lawmakers sought the further amendment of Section 109 (1) of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1997, as amended by Republic Act No. 9337 and R.A. 10378. Section 109 pertains to transactions covered by VAT exemptions.

The amendment provides that the system loss component in the sale of electricity by distribution companies and electric cooperatives shall be VAT exempted.

Another amendment is that the “Sale or lease of goods or properties or the performance of services other than the transactions mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, the gross annual sales and/or receipts do not exceed the amount of one million five hundred thousand pesos (P1,500,000): Provided, That not later than January 31, 2009 and every three years thereafter, the amount herein shall be adjusted to its present value using the Consumer Price Index, as published by the National Statistics Office (NSO).” (PNA)

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