Why not tax my ‘bilbil’?

A PARTY-LIST representative who happens to be a good friend recently filed a bill to tax cosmetic products, including make-up, perfume and whitening products, to help government raise additional revenues.

The bill has since been referred to as the “vanity tax” proposal and has elicited memes that have gone viral with the hashtag #DontTaxMyBeauty. The proposal was made with the best of intentions.

Ako Bicol representative Rodel Batocabe argued that tax revenues from the beauty industry could surpass potential revenues from raising excise taxes on oil products, which would affect even more Filipinos. However, the backlash against the proposal showed that women are not willing to even contemplate giving up the transformational gifts of a perfect shade of lipstick, and seductive long lashes curled with a wand. To be fair, in some occupations, wearing make-up is a must, and is part of the company policy on wearing uniforms, hence to brand vanity products as a luxury is pretty unrealistic.

Then came yet another equally absurd proposal, this time from PBA representative Mark Aeron Sambar. He said that nobody needs five or more phones hence the need to impose additional taxes on excessive gadget purchases. Although he has yet to file the bill, the proposed gadgets tax has left people shaking their heads and wanting to throw their phones at someone.

Once again, the proposal comes with the best of intentions. Sambar told the media: “We need cell phones but we don’t need five or six cell phones or 10 cell phones. That’s the aim of this bill, it’s just to prevent people from buying too much of a certain product and at the same time generating income for the government.”

Since both proposals were quickly shot down via social media, I decided to come up with my own well-intentioned tax measures that any legislator can borrow, hopefully with no attribution to this writer:

“Bilbil” tax – Why not impose an additional tax based on belly fat? Taxing the obese may lead them to go to the gym more and visit the grocery and fast-food chains less. Also, given the dangers of obesity to national health, this would make rich people eat less, and poor people drink less alcohol.

Wig tax – People who wear wigs have a distinct advantage over bald people who can’t afford to buy one. Of course, cancer patients would be exempted from paying the wig tax. However, justice secretaries shall be covered once this bill becomes a law.

Adobo tax – I challenge any member of Congress to file a bill imposing taxes on chicken and pork adobo. #DontTaxMyAdobo would be an instant hit. But, hey, think of the revenues that this proposal would generate! Imagine a long stretch of a world-class expressway with a billboard sign that says: “Your adobo taxes at work!”

Carpet tax – Only rich people own houses with carpets. If you have an imported carpet installed in your home, you have to pay more in taxes. The thicker your carpet, the higher the tax. What if you only own a small rug? If that small rug is very ugly and clashes with the colors of your wall, then you have to pay a tax for bad taste.

Stupid bill tax – This tax will only be imposed on members of Congress that file bills that are so idiotic that it diminishes people’s respect for legislators. For every stupid bill filed, the executive branch can withhold additional taxes from the salaries of all legislators, and not just the proponents of stupid bills. This way, whenever a legislator files a stupid bill, his or her colleagues would be the first to raise a howl.

Stupid tax proposals are not confined to the Philippine Congress.

A website called Listverse (www.listverse.com) has a list of top 10 truly bizarre taxes. Number 2 on that list is the “No Fart Tax”. The Agricultural Emissions Research Levy, otherwise known as a “fart tax” or “flatulence tax,” was proposed in New Zealand in 2003, to assist with compliance with the Kyoto Protocol. Again, the proposal was a product of good intentions.

By imposing a tax on the release of methane by farm animals, New Zealand hoped it would help cut down greenhouse gas emissions. The Labour government decided to give up the “fart tax” when farmers protested against the idea of taxing cow’s farts.

I sympathize with the current administration that wants to do so much, but lack the revenues to do so. However, there are limits to the kind of tax proposals that we, the people, can take. Having inane ideas thrown at our faces make us feel like we are the adults in the room, and we weren’t even elected. The enormity of the challenge does not deserve a competition of the absurd. We all have better things to do.


Manila Times Link: Why not tax my ‘bilbil’?

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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