(Photo courtesy of Dorie Cañizares)

The national government’s bid to herd small online sellers into the formal economy has received a lukewarm response among some online traders in Palawan.

“Nakakagalit. Ito iyong paraan sana namin na mga nanay para itawid iyong pang-araw-araw. Kumbaga, raket lang siya kasi ang hirap umasa sa gobyerno,” said Dorie Cañizares, a teacher in El Nido who sells Filipino delicacies online.

Cañizares, 35, makes roughly P200 a day with her part-time online selling. Under Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 60-2020, she is required to register her business on or before July 31 to avoid penalties.

She said that in El Nido, many have gone online to sell various products, ranging from vegetables and farm produce, freshly caught fish and crab, and cooked meals.

Many of the sellers, she added, have lost their jobs, and their hardships are compounded by the stoppage of tourism that used to be a major income earner for locals.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has announced that all online sellers are required to register their businesses, declare past transactions, and will be paying taxes starting July 31.

Explaining the policy, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has defended the bureau’s move, noting that the national government is losing revenue to fund the country’s efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ang pinagkukunan naman po natin para sa COVID-19 ay ‘yung pondo na pumapasok primarily sa BIR at sa Customs. Habang tumataas ang pangangailangan natin sa COVID-19, syempre hahanap at hahanap tayo ng pamamaraan para ma-increase ang ating intake ng taxes. Isa po ito sa pamamaraan,” Roque said on June 11.

While Roque clarified that only online sellers earning above P250,000 a year are required to pay taxes, online sellers are still required to register their businesses and keep financial records to present these to the BIR. Many still find this requirement laborious and adds to even more of their expenses.

“Siguro pwede naman i-register. Basta malaki ang sales. Kasi kung susundin iyong batas, P250,000 [a year lang naman ang required magbayad]. Eh kung maliit ang kita, sayang lang sa papel [sa pag-file]. Papahirapan lang ang lahat,” Cañizares said.

DTI Palawan information officer Persival Narbonita argued that the legitimacy of the online sellers would secure the customers and consumers with their products during digital transactions.

“Importanteng-importante na maging lehitimo ang isang negosyante… Halimbawa importante ‘yan katulad ng mga mamimili, paano mo hahabulin ang isang tao o isang negosyo kung hindi siya lehitimo, baka ‘pag bayad mo, wala na,” Narbonita said.

Narbonita did not say how many sellers have registered their business names under DTI after the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) required online sellers to register their businesses with the bureau as stated under revenue memorandum circular no. 60-2020.

One of the requirements for an online business to be registered in BIR is to register first its business name in DTI.

“Ayaw ko lang i-preempt kasi desisyon na ‘yan ng mga tao magparehistro, desisyon nila yan. Hinihikayat na lang natin sila,” he said.

He also advised online sellers to apply the Price Tag Law and include the right price of their products on their posts. Sellers and customers could discuss the additional charges such as delivery charges in personal messages.

Narbonita said that DTI is strictly monitoring the online sellers posting ‘pm sent’ marks on their product advertisements. They could receive warning or notice from DTI and if nothing changes with the sellers’ practice, an administrative charges will be filed.

Narbonita also reminded online sellers, whether they registered or not, to apply the one-price tag requirement per consumer good and/or services as stated in R.A. 7394 or commonly known as the Consumer Act of the Philippines and to avoid the “Pm sent,” response.

Private messaging should only be done when the parties were to discuss the delivery fee and not the price of the product in order to ensure equal treatment of the customers.

Narbonita also said that DTI Palawan is monitoring online transactions and should any online seller not follow the rules stated in R.A. 7394, they would be given a notice, and if they still did not comply, with enough evidences of the illegality DTI Palawan would be prompted to file administrative charges.

(With reports by Patricia Laririt, Rachel Ganancial and Ryan Jasper Elijah Sandig)