House backs Finance push for stiffer ‘sin taxes’

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading proposals to increase the excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol products to raise more funds for the Universal Health Care program of the Duterte administration.

House backs Finance push for stiffer ‘sin taxes’

House Bill 8677 garnered a voting of 187-7 with one abstention, while HB 8616, which seeks to increase alcohol excise taxes, got a voting of 189-7 with one abstention.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo co-authored HB 8618. The bill seeks to address the perceived inequality on the excise tax collections on alcohol products. Collections from alcohol account for 30 percent while cigarettes cover 70 percent of the government’s excise tax collections.

HB 8677 is authored by Reps. Joey Sarte Salceda, Angelina Tan, Ramon Rocamora, Jocelyn Limkaichong, Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Gabriel Bordado, Cheryl Deloso-Montalla, Estrellita Suansing, Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, Anthony Bravo, and Rodel Batocabe. It aims to curb smoking prevalence, especially among vulnerable sectors like the youth and the poor, as well as contribute to the UHC program.

HB 8618, aside from Speaker Arroyo, is also authored by former Rep. Horacio Suansing, Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin, Reps. Estrellita Suansing, Marvin Nieto, Rodel Batocabe, and Christopher Co, seeks to raise excise tax rates on alcohol from the rates imposed by the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC), as amended by Republic Act 10351.

HB 8618 in particular seeks to address the perceived inequality on the excise tax collections on alcohol products. The bill proposes to correct this by raising the indexation of excise tax rates on alcohol products from four percent to seven percent for inflation.

Moreover, it seeks to impose on distilled spirits such as brandy, whisky, and alcopops a tax rate of 22 percent ad valorem on the net retail price (NRP) per proof plus a specific tax of P30 per liter beginning 2019.

The specific tax will increase by P5 every year thereafter until it reaches P45 per liter in 2022. In 2023 and onwards, the specific tax for distilled spirits shall climb seven percent each year.

The measure further integrates two specific tax rates for sparkling wine into a unitary rate pegged at P650. This means that beginning 2019, sparkling wines will receive 15 percent ad valorem tax per liter plus P650 specific tax per liter. The specific tax will be raised by seven percent beginning 2020 and every year thereafter.

In addition, HB 8618 deletes the “fortified wines” category and integrates it under still wines and carbonated wines with 14 percent alcohol and up. This category shall be taxed P80 per liter in 2019. In 2020 and every year thereafter, the tax shall increase seven percent every year beginning 2020.

On the other hand, still wines and carbonated wines with 14 percent alcohol or less shall be taxed P40 per liter beginning 2019. In 2020 and every year thereafter, this shall increase by 7 percent.

Cooking wines that contain a salt content of not less than 1.5 grams for every 100 milliliter shall be exempted from excise tax.

Finally, the distinction between fermented liquors brewed in microbreweries and in factories is removed by HB 8618 to facilitate simpler tax administration. Regardless of the brewery, fermented liquors shall be taxed P28 per liter volume of capacity in 2019; P32 in 2020; P34 in 2021; and P36 in 2022. It will be raised by seven percent each year thereafter.

Meanwhile, HB 8677 seeks to raise the unitary tax on cigarettes.

Under the NIRC, as amended by RA 10351, a unitary tax rate of P32.50 for each pack of cigarettes was imposed from January 2018 to June 2018. This increased to P35 in July 2018 and was slated to remain the same until December 2019. 

It was set to increase further to P37.50 per pack from January 2020 to December 2021, and then to P40 from January 2022 to December 2023. From January 2024 onwards, the unitary tax rate was supposed to increase four percent each year.

However, under HB 8677, each pack of cigarettes shall be taxed P37.50 beginning July 1, 2019 until June 30, 2020. An amount of P2.50 shall be added to the rate thereafter until it reaches P45. This means cigarettes per pack will be taxed P40 beginning July 2020; P42.50 beginning July 2021; and P45 beginning July 2022. On July 2023 and every year onwards, the tax rate shall be raised an additional four percent. 

Previously, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said higher excise taxes and pricey tobacco products would discourage people, especially the youth, from smoking which could be bad for their health.

Dominguez said increasing the current tobacco excise tax rates to levels that would effectively curb smoking, particularly among the youth, would also help supplement funds for the Universal Health Care (UHC) program, especially for the treatment of smoking-related diseases.

Citing the testimonies of resource persons heard by the House ways and means committee during its deliberations on the proposed new tobacco tax rates, Dominguez said the higher excise taxes on cigarettes under the Sin Tax Reform Law have led to a drop in the number of smokers by roughly a million people per year, with fewer teenagers getting into the habit and a corresponding increase in revenues that are spent on treating Filipinos with smoking-related diseases.

A recent news release by the House, posted on its website, quoted Dr. Antonio Dans of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) as saying that preliminary calculations project about 150,000 new smokers as a result of the rates approved by the House ways and means committee. 

Tobacco farmers also benefit from this law, the Finance Department said, because 15 percent of the revenue proceeds from sin tax reform continue to be allocated to local government units hosting tobacco growers. From P5.6 billion in 2014, the share of host LGUs steadily increased to P10.7 billion in 2015, to P13 billion in 2016, and to P17.1 billion in 2017. 

Topics: House of Representatives , Universal Health Care program , Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
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