President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (File photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte has authorized the Department of Finance (DOF) to enter into talks with the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for a possible USD809,450 grant (about PHP39 million) meant to assist the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) digital transformation program.

In a news release on Wednesday, the DOF said Duterte has approved its request for a special authority (SA) designating and authorizing any one of its senior officials – Undersecretaries Antonette Tionko and Mark Dennis Joven, along with BIR Deputy Commissioner Lanee David –
"to negotiate and/or facilitate, in accordance with law, for and on behalf of the government of the Republic of the Philippines, with the authorized representatives of the USTDA.”

Tionko and Joven are the undersecretaries for the DOF's Revenue Operations Group and International Finance Group, respectively, while David is the deputy commissioner for the BIR's Information Systems Group.

The SA covers the negotiations for an agreement on the grant of USD809,450 by the USTDA for the BIR’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Modernization Strategy and Data Center Technical Assistance Project, the department said.

Duterte also designated and authorized Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III or BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay “to conclude, sign, execute and deliver the said Grant Agreement.”

The BIR project aims to modernize the bureau’s infrastructure and operational environment, the DOF said.

“The project funded by the USTDA grant will ensure an in-depth technical assessment of the BIR’s current ICT environment, the development of an Enterprise Architecture roadmap/framework, and an assessment of the organizational framework of the BIR’s Information System Group (ISG), including recommended restructuring and training programs,” it said.

Dominguez has cited the BIR’s digital transformation efforts as among the factors that led to a dramatic improvement of its services to taxpayers and its robust collection performance ahead of the pandemic-induced crisis.

He said the digitally enhanced administrative reforms being undertaken by the BIR are beginning to pay off by way of the significant improvement in the country’s tax effort from 13 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015 to 14.5 percent of GDP in 2019.

The digital switch has also led to the more convenient and efficient electronic filing of tax payments, especially during the pandemic, Dominguez said.

Starting February 14 last year, the BIR allowed the use of the PayMaya mobile application as an additional electronic payment channel for tax payments.

Apart from PayMaya, the other e-payment tools are GCash, LandBank Linkbiz, DBP PayTax, Union Bank Online, and PESONet.

The BIR has also improved the tax forms deployed to the e-BIR Forms System to make the filing of tax returns more accessible and convenient to taxpayers.

It began the pilot implementation on April 21, 2020 of its web-based Internal Revenue Integrated System (IRIS) that will be the central tool and repository to process taxpayers’ information.

The IRIS is targeted to be available nationwide by the end of 2021.

An Electronic Audited Financial System (eAFS) was also launched on June 1 last year to allow business taxpayers to electronically submit their financial statements to the BIR.

In the same month, the BIR concluded its competition dubbed the “HACK-A-TAX Challenge”, which brought together talented information technology professionals, start-ups, and students across the country to develop innovative digital-based solutions for the bureau.

To enable taxpayers to continue consulting revenue officials on their tax-related concerns even with the mobility restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), the BIR launched its eAppointment Facility on October 19 last year.

In November, the BIR also launched its web-based Procurement, Payment, Inventory and Monitoring System and its Online Application for Tax Clearance for Bidding Purposes (eTCBP). (PR)