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Lapeña: Tax credits source of ‘pasalubong’ at Customs

By: Hannah L. Torregoza

Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said yesterday that tax credit certificates are being used as a form of “pasalubong” or welcome gift at the Bureau of Customs.

Lapeña, at the resumption of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the P6.4-billion shabu from China which passed through the Customs green lane, said that he learned the scheme, a source of corruption at BoC, just weeks after taking over from Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.

According to Lapeña, Customs officials withhold and ask a three to seven percent cut in amount of the TCCs to facilitate its release and its proceeds that can amount to millions can be used as a welcome gift for new commissioners.

TCCs are a form of tax refund for big companies and could be excess payment of tariff or duties or refund due to cancellation of imports or Value-Added Tax input. It can also be output tax that has to be refunded back to the company. The certificates are then consolidated but remain within the agency.

Lapeña told senators that he did not receive any form of gift upon taking over the BoC. “I told the media that I did not, I have not received pasalubong. I was thinking there was no such thing,” Lapeña said.

“Then two to three weeks ago, I started receiving bundles of folders for tax credit certificates and I signed it…It has been processed, it is legitimate, and then is signed and released,” Lapeña added.

“Another week – third week – there were the same bundles of these folders for this tax credit certificate. And last week, a concerned personnel came to my office and told me that it’s the source of the pasalubong,” Lapeña said.

Lapeña said he ordered a recall of the certificates he had signed and ordered an investigation on the matter. “The tax refund happens when a new commissioner is designated,” Lapeña said.

Despite this, Lapena said he is optimistic reforms are underway at the BoC. “I’m optimistic we will be able to do reforms in Customs. At the start, I’ve prepared a five-point but the BoC executive committee is working on more detailed plans – short, medium, and long-term plans,” he said.

Lapeña also said they have made sure that the BoC have 100 percent functioning X-ray machines.

“But there are X-rays not being used. They are in stand-by so that if an X-ray machine does down, there’s another to replace it. Meantime, it’s functioning. They should be utilized so there would be no congestion,” he said, adding they have requested new X-ray machines.