Philippines Blog #42: A Taxing Experience

November 10, 2009 – Tuesday

On 30th October we paid the Capital Gains Tax and Document Tax to the BIR Ilagan but as at today, 10th November, we still have not received the clearance from the BIR who also hold crucial documents we need in order to obtain our building permit from City Hall in Santiago City and register our own title.
History repeats because in theory I should not have been able to obtain the one time tax and duty exemption on our container of personal and household effects from the Department of Finance without the Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) I-Card issued by the Bureau of Immigration. They were supposed to take 2 weeks, then it was 3 weeks and in the end it was a month before my ACR-I card was issued. Thankfully on that occasion we were able to get a dispensation from the Department of Finance so that the stub for collection of my ACR I-Card proved sufficient.
So much red tape, so many forms to complete, so many copies of supporting documents required (some on the official list, some a whim of the receiving officer on each occasion), so many people checking what other people have done, so little automation. It is exactly what I expected when I came here but it’s quite sad to see a country that should be a leader in Asia struggling to get itself into even the 20th century let alone the present one. Only the investment of funds that the country simply does not have (or if it does they are diverted for reparations after so many natural disasters) will change the present situation. I have fallen in love with this country and its people but I am only too aware of its serious internal problems.
Things move very slowly here. You see a lot of typewriters on desks and very few PCs, one possible reason for the delays. There is an optimism about how long something will take but it’s rarely based on any kind of reality. So one learns to be patient. Things get done eventually but where two authorities are involved, as is the case here, the effect of delays is compounded. No doubt sooner or later somebody will type the clearance certificate out on a typewriter or write it out by hand.
In the meantime the shovels, buckets and wheelbarrows have so far only thinly covered the construction site with gravel. Tons more gravel will need to be delivered and redistributed and compacted before building can commence. So the delays caused by the BIR are not presenty impacting the building schedule. For the moment we wait patiently for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn. We may even pray a little for some divine intervention at the BIR!
Update: The BIR issued the clearance a couple of days after this blog was published).